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Book Review for "Run Towards the Danger" by Sarah Polley

Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of MemoryRun Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory by Sarah Polley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember the author of the memoirs "Run Towards The Danger" as a delicate, fair-haired little girl in the CBC's "Road To Avonlea" although I have little recollection of ever having watched the program itself. I picked up the book with interest only as far as reading something while waiting for some books that I had on order.

What a pleasant surprise!

Polley writes about her life in a series of fascinating essays, each 'stand-alone'. She gains the reader's sympathy for the child actor (child laborer, as she often refers to herself) who lived in a filthy home with a latently pedophile father who smoked and watched TV all the time following the death with cancer of his wife, Polley's mother. 

In stark contrast to what many believe must be a fun, fairy-tale life as a child actor-- a 'star' in Canada-- Polley describes the grim details of her young life as including the painful experiences of scoliosis and her mother's early death, and the loneliness of pulling oneself up by the boot straps. 

Her father appears to be most emotionally involved with her when they both watch (repeatedly) the movie "Dreamland" about the relationship between Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell (Lewis Carroll and Alice of Alice in Wonderland). Michael Polley feels most empathy for the unrequited necessity of the "love" between Dodgson and the young Alice. Sarah Polley, like most young children, adopts the parent's point of view and grows up believing that Alice was cold and selfish. She takes this point of view with her into her role as Alice at the 1994 Stratford Festival production of "Alice Through the Looking Glass." At that time, she began to see Alice as the "victim" and not Dodgson. This was a turning point in her life as an adolescent with little agency in her work life.

Another essay in the book deals with Polley's having been one of several "alleged" victims of the CBC talk show host Jian Ghomeshi's sexual assaults. This was a particularly interesting piece of writing dealing mostly with the impacts for victims of assault "coming forward" to report an assault with others. I do not want to spoil the read for you.

The last essay in the book is about Polley's experience with brain injury and how that affected her parenting, her work, her ability to function in general, and how it was finally resolved.

Polley had a negative experience with the movie and TV industry as a child and adolescent. This segment of the book reminds me quite a lot about the book about Hayley Mills, a British child actor whose story, Forever Young, I read and reported on just before this one. Polley described the way young key actors are coddled and simultaneously, traumatized by being expected to deal with emotional experiences beyond their stage of development. 

Both Polley and Mills refer to very dangerous situations in their work (as well as working much longer hours than covered by legislation) that showed how insensitive and irresponsible were the adults "in charge" of their care while they worked. Polley speaks about how she discourages parents from suggesting their children work in the 'business'. She mentions that individuals with a "stage parent" POV will not hear what she recommends and will often just go ahead with the idea that their 'talented' child "loves" acting and will do whatever they can to get them into the business.

There is so much wisdom, compassion and empathy in this book that anyone reading it will have their cup filled.  You can pick up this book at Amazon Canada HERE as a Kindle, softcover or hardcover. You can find it at as well.

View all my reviews at GoodReads.


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