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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

Run Towards the Danger

Confrontations with a Body of Memory

by (author) Sarah Polley

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Mar 2022
Personal Memoirs, Entertainment & Performing Arts, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER * WINNER OF THE 2022 TORONTO BOOK AWARDS * SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2023 KOBO EMERGING WRITER PRIZE * A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice * Named a Most-Anticipated Book of 2022 by Entertainment Weekly, Lit Hub, and AV Club
“A visceral and incisive collection of six propulsive personal essays.” —Vanity Fair
“[A] roving, psychologically probing memoir in essays . . . On the page, Polley turns out to be as brave, funny, and unself-serious as she is on the screen.” —The New Yorker
From the Academy Award-nominated director of Women Talking, Run Towards the Danger explores memory and the dialogue between her past and her present.

These are the most dangerous stories of my life. The ones I have avoided, the ones I haven’t told, the ones that have kept me awake on countless nights. As these stories found echoes in my adult life, and then went another, better way than they did in childhood, they became lighter and easier to carry.

Sarah Polley’s work as an actor, screenwriter, and director is celebrated for its honesty, complexity, and deep humanity. She brings all of those qualities along with her exquisite storytelling chops to these six essays. Each one captures a piece of Polley’s life as she remembers it, while at the same time examining the fallibility of memory, the mutability of reality in the mind, and the possibility of experiencing the past anew, as the person you are now but were not then. As Polley writes, the past and present are in a “reciprocal pressure dance.”

Polley contemplates stories from her own life ranging from stage fright to high risk childbirth to endangerment and more. After struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, Polley met a specialist who gave her wholly new advice: to recover from a traumatic injury, she had to retrain her mind to strength by charging towards the very activities that triggered her symptoms. With riveting clarity, she shows the power of applying that same advice to other areas of her life in order to find a path forward, a way through. Rather than live in a protective crouch, she had to run towards the danger.

In this extraordinary book, Sarah Polley explores what it is to live in one’s body, in a constant state of becoming, learning, and changing.

About the author


  • Short-listed, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
  • Winner, Toronto Book Award

Contributor Notes

SARAH POLLEY is the Academy Award–winning screenwriter of Women Talking (2022), an Academy Award-nominated director, and actor. After making short films, Polley made her feature-length directorial debut with the drama film Away from Her in 2006. Polley received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay, which she adapted from the Alice Munro story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” Her other projects include the documentary film Stories We Tell (2012), which won the New York Film Critics Circle prize and the National Board of Review award for best documentary; the miniseries adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel Alias Grace (2017); and the romantic comedy Take This Waltz (2011). Polley’s film adaptation of Women Talking by Miriam Toews received Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay in 2023. Polley began her acting career as a child, starring in many productions for film and television.

Editorial Reviews

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER * WINNER OF THE 2022 TORONTO BOOK AWARDS * SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2023 KOBO EMERGING WRITER PRIZE * A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice * Named a Most-Anticipated Book of 2022 by Entertainment Weekly, Lit Hub, and AV Club
One of The Globe and Mail’s “Best books of 2022”
Praise for Run Towards the Danger:

“Fascinating, harrowing, courageous, and deeply felt, these explorations of ‘dangerous stories,’ harmful past events, and trials of the soul speak to all who’ve encountered dark waters and have had to navigate them.”
—Margaret Atwood via Twitter
“Sad to be done with [Sarah Polley]’s superb memoir, Run Towards the Danger, but very happy I read it. Fascinating life and beautifully and unflinchingly explored. Please read.”
—Rob Delaney, actor and writer, via Twitter

“Without a shred of self-pity, [Polley’s] candor, humor, wisdom and a fierce intelligence boldly examines some of life’s most physically and emotionally scarring events. . . . Her story serves as an example of how sweet and even victorious life can be on the other side of the abyss.”
—Jennifer Grey, actor and writer

“In Run Towards the Danger, Sarah Polley does just that. She tells us the truth, even when it feels razor sharp—even when it feels dangerous. She rips away at painful past experiences that she’s never shared before, and in this way emboldens us to sharpen our gaze on the shadowed moments in our own past, to understand their provenance and to bring meaning to them. She shows us how, by doing this, we can begin to move towards that specific peace of mind—you might even call it joy—that comes with confronting our demons and knowing ourselves. These brilliant essays (and Sarah Polley, with her melioristic heart and empathic eye) urge us, by example, towards the examined life, the life worth living, and give us a jolt of energy to muster the courage and compassion needed to live it.”
Miriam Toews, bestselling author of Women Talking and All My Puny Sorrows

“Sarah Polley understands that questions of conscience are inseparable from the terrors and tenderness of the body, and that courage—moral or physical—is not fearlessness but our relationship to fear. How we confront pain, how we determine what is safe, how we comprehend the depth and limits of our responsibility to others and to ourselves—these are exacting, keening questions. This is a powerful and moving book, both in its seeking and its wisdom.”
—Anne Michaels, Giller-shortlisted author of Fugitive Pieces and All We Saw

“I loved this book! Like light refracted through a prism, each essay offers a unique view of the rich inner world and illustrious career of one of our most important artists. Smart, funny, devastating, and compassionate—often all in the same paragraph—Run Towards the Danger reminds us of literature’s power to synthesize the human condition and to transform a reader in the process.”
—Alison Pick, Man Booker Prize–nominated author of Far to Go
“Polley is an excellent excavator of her own past. These six essays . . . crackle with insight and intimacy.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A visceral and incisive collection of six propulsive personal essays.”
Vanity Fair
“[An] authorial debut. . . . In six sprawling yet meaty essays, Polley, now 43, recalls a life in which playing the roles of children was mandatory and nearly constant (her first acting job was at age 4) but actually being a child was regarded an unnecessary encumbrance for all involved. . . . In what is arguably the collection’s best essay, Polley wrestles with the case of Jian Ghomeshi. . . . [F]or all that’s been written about it in the #MeToo era, I have never seen anyone lay it out with as much precision and self-scrutiny as Polley does here. . . . The little girl who carried the weight of Hollywood movie budgets and theater actors’ salaries on her shoulders is now a grown woman whose stolen childhood has made her at once a stunningly sophisticated observer of the world and an imperfect witness to the truth. Her willingness to embrace such paradoxes, in this book as well as in her films, is the mark of a real artist.”
Meghan Daum, The New York Times
Run Towards the Danger is the best book I’ve read in ages. Polley doesn’t just delve into her past; she blasts dynamite into her most visceral memories of childhood stardom and collisions with maturity, and rises from hardship like a phoenix again and again. She lays bare her hard-won lessons with a mixture of poetry and popcorn. Her formidable intellect, famous charm and devastating vulnerability show up in every sentence.”
—Patrice Goodman, actor
“[Sarah Polley] goes deep in her writing, making herself so unbearably vulnerable that you feel compelled to handle the book with care. And her recollections feel vulnerable too—time, new experiences and evolved sentiments have a way of changing the way Polley holds and understands her past . . . [I]n Run Towards The Danger, Polley unpacks the trauma and more.”
—Now Toronto
“One of the ways we might describe a book such as this one, one which is very personal, very graphic in some ways, both in the events, and in the reactions and emotions Polley has, in which she has had to dig deep to reckon with her own life: brave.”
—Toronto Star

“In her memoir, Polley has crafted six brilliant essays to capture the nuances of her own life story. These essays are the result—portraits of a mind trying to make sense of an unusual life, trying to figure out how to believe in your own sense of self and your own desires in a patriarchal world. . . . Powerful.”
Heather O’Neill, Maclean’s

“Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, director and actor Sarah Polley has written an absolutely beautiful collection of essays: a cat’s cradle of emotion around the ways in which her body lives in the world. Memories surrounding anxiety, scoliosis, trauma, child acting, pressure, surgery and repair coalesce in this brilliant, incisive, literary leap through Polley’s mind.”
ABC News

“[Run Towards the Danger] is not linear or discursive, not explosive or incoherent. There are six essays, each on a particular life crisis, and each has been mined, considered deeply, thought and rethought. It’s a guidebook for surviving a sadistic world.”
—Toronto Star
“[A] collection of incisive, charged essays.”
—The Bookseller

“[Run Towards the Danger is] a roving, psychologically probing memoir in essays. . . . On the page, Polley turns out to be as brave, funny, and unself-serious as she is on the screen.”
—The New Yorker
“Brave, intelligent. . . . After struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, Polley was advised by a specialist to engage her fears and run towards the danger. She does so with riveting clarity in this fine memoir, proving that she is as fierce as she is technical, as vulnerable as she is malleable, as strong as she is critical.”
—2022 Toronto Book Awards Jury

“[A] chilling narration. It’s the things the Canadian actress, writer, and director doesn’t say that you wonder about. . . . Her piece about disappearing into the role of Alice in a Canadian production of Alice in Wonderland is especially cryptic—but in a fascinating way. I hung on Polley’s every word, just trying to parse the subtleties of what she was getting at.”
“[A] beautifully written, thrillingly lucid memoir.”
The Globe and Mail
“[A] powerful new book.”
“[R]ead Sarah Polley’s memoir-in-essays, in which she recounts, among many other things, the unbearable pressures of child stardom. . . . [T]he writing is great.”
—Lit Hub
“Polley reflects on her life’s difficult moments in intimate, unsparing prose. . . . [This is] a book that runs towards the danger, with compassion and honesty.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“The reader feels Polley’s wounds vividly, yet we also sense her strength, and admire her courage. Run Towards the Danger is no easy read, but it is undoubtedly a triumph.”
—The Film Stage
“[U]nlike any[thing] I have ever read. . . . [B]ruisingly candid and intelligent.”
—The Guardian

“[Sarah Polley] launches herself as a front-rank author of nonfiction. . . . Her style is admirably forensic, her interest in nuance relentless, her readiness to revise her opinions admirable.”
Prospect Magazine

“Polley poses important questions about safeguarding, and the stability and instability of memory. . . . That struggle is elegantly, frankly and forensically explored, taking its energy from a reckoning: with herself, her parents, the film industry and the oppressive structures that injure. Over the course of [Run Towards Danger], she gains in strength and purpose. . . conjuring and vanquishing the ghosts that had haunted her. These brilliantly written essays are also about the resilience of the female body, so often a site of struggle but also a site of strength.”
The Irish Times
“A lot of [Run Towards the Danger] resonated with me. . . [T]hat book hit me really hard.”
Tatiana Maslany, actress
“In [Run Towards the Danger], [Polley] applies [the title’s] maxim to half a dozen difficult stories from her life . . . exhuming each one so as to master it.”

“The book I have recommended more than any other this year is Sarah Polley’s Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory, which I tore through like some sort of literary binge-watch. I kept telling myself I would read only one essay at a time, but I couldn’t stop myself from continuing on to the next and the next. Until, faster than you can say ‘the Adventures of Baron Munchausen,’ I had consumed the whole thing.”
—Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail

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