Run towards the danger : confrontations with a body of memory

The six essays in this book by the acclaimed Canadian actress (The Sweet Hereafter) and filmmaker (Stories We Tell), Sarah Polley, provide a recounting of her emotional and physical scars in steady, meticulous prose. The first essay, “Alice Collapsing,” chronicles her childhood bout with severe stage fright during a production of Alice Through The Looking-Glass at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. On the verge of a mental breakdown, she is able to leave the production early to have emergency scoliosis surgery. The essay also dwells on Polley’s decision to move out of her indolent father’s house as a teenager, a few years after her mother’s death from cancer, to live with a boyfriend.

Other essays in Run Towards The Danger have the same harrowing tone. “The Woman Who Stayed Silent” details Polley’s underage rape by Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC radio host fired over sexual assault allegations from multiple female accusers. Polley experienced emotional strain remaining silent during his criminal trial, as she feared repercussions from coming forward as an “imperfect” victim. “High Risk” delineates Polley’s struggle with a high-risk pregnancy at a Toronto hospital under intense pain from endometriosis. Her baby survives after a short period in the NICU. “Mad Genius” documents the childhood trauma she experienced acting in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, including being subjected to loud noises from explosions and being made to sit in freezing water for hours. No effort was made to make sure that child labor laws were observed during the film’s production. “Dissolving the Boundaries” describes a bittersweet trip to Prince Edward Island--the setting of Polley’s first starring role in Road to Avonlea--with her family. She explores the dramatic differences between the real place and the idealized, fictional version on the television series.

The title essay depicts the author’s rehabilitation from traumatic brain injury at a Pittsburgh concussion clinic. Before seeking medical care in the United States, Polley spent many fruitless months trying to find a cure for her brain injury symptoms after a freak accident involving a fire extinguisher. Her rapid return to normal life is remarkable after a period of extreme inactivity.

Run Towards the Danger is a shockingly candid account of the life of one of Canada’s favorite daughters.