October 2021 Book Club Pick: Smile

*Written by Sammy Stilp*

The month of October’s book choice is Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl. 

This powerful memoir brings women together from any place of discomfort and lack of confidence with our own bodies. 

The story begins when it appears Ruhl has her life all together. She is about to give birth to her twins and is living a fulfilling lifestyle as a Broadway performer. Her world is quickly turned upside down when she is diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. For those that do not know what the diagnosis is, Bell’s palsy is an unexplained facial paralysis that causes one side of the face to droop due to muscle weakness. 

When Ruhl discovers she is a part of the unlucky 10 percent who will not make a full recovery, she embarks on a decade-long journey to search for a cure, while struggling with the endless task of motherhood, and a shocking reality her career on Broadway may be cut short.  

Throughout the memoir, Ruhl opens up to the readers in vulnerable, emotional ways. She expresses her anger, frustration, lack of understanding, and overall mentality of “why me,” although Ruhl presents a certain strength as well. 

When it comes to one’s appearance, people can find so many insecurities and lack the self-confidence to stop doubting themselves based on how they look. Performers in particular face the scrutiny of the public based on their looks. Ruhl courageously recounts her struggle of reshaping her mindset surrounding her newly formed looks in a profession that judges solely on appearance. 

After reading Smile I knew I wanted to share this book with others. The pandemic has made people more aware of fitness and beauty, and how they dominate today’s market. Everyday people are comparing themselves to one another in terms of looks. It is an added amount of stress that prevents us from truly living fulfilling lives. When it comes to defining oneself, it should not be about their outside perception, but instead we need to define ourselves beyond this. Smile is a book that will bring perseverance and hope into one’s own life. 


Where can you access the book? 

We always recommend using Bookshop to support local bookstores. 

Want to find out more about Sara Ruhl?

Visit her website or read her Vogue Article, “When I Lost My Smile”