“Playing with Dynamite is about finding the courage to ask questions, to question memory and ultimately to question the stories we tell ourselves. As she writes in the book, ‘It’s harder to untell than tell a story.’ But this is what her memoir does. It pulls at the threads to unstitch a story she has told herself all of her life, and then stitches together a retelling.”
“Playing with Dynamite is a really amazing and intense memoir about Harrigan’s father, who died in a tragic accident when she was seven. This quick description belies the fact that this book is so much more: part investigative journalism, part mystery, part literary history (Homer’s Odyssey plays heavily here), and a book not about her father but about the author herself and her growth as a mother and writer. I tore into this book and was blown away by it. Aside from being well written and deftly organized, it is a heartbreaking affirmation of family and love.”
—Ward Tefft, Chop Suey Books, Richmond
“Playing with Dynamite: A Memoir is an extraordinary, exceptional, deftly crafted and multilayered account that will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections.”
—Midwest Book Review
“For much of her life, Sharon Harrigan’s father was an idea, a concept, a myth. What happens when she finally allows him to be a real person, with real complications? The answers reside in this potent memoir. Through frank and fiercely honest prose, the narrator comes to realize that whatever remained unsolved in her would stay unsolved until she asked herself the right questions, and discovered herself anew.”
—Debra Gwartney, author of the memoir Live Through This, finalist for the National Critics Circle Award
“I kept expecting more people to die.” With this amazing declarative statement, Playing with Dynamite shows the inner struggle of a child trying to understand death. The book opens with a story about a father that has become unstable and needs investigating. The daughter embarks on an odyssey to find her father, to find herself, and to find her way home. She is, by turns, both Telemachus and Odysseus, and her story is both epic and intimate.
“Is it possible to live our lives if the story we have about our past is wrong? What happens when what we think we know about our parents turns out to be untrue? Why do we create stories about our parents, and how do they affect who we are? The questions in this book will resonate with any reader who has ever been a daughter or a son.”
—Nick Flynn, author of the bestselling memoirs, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (which was adapted into the film Being Flynn ), The Ticking Is the Bomb , and The Reenactments
“This memoir hit me in the gut and made me feel all kinds of complicated, lost in the wilderness of the human heart, but this much is clear: Sharon Harrigan writes with grace and unflinching honesty.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of The Dark Net , Thrill Me , The Dead Lands , and Red Moon
“Sharon Harrigan has written a thrilling memoir, PLAYING WITH DYNAMITE, about searching for the truth about her dad, a man who blew off his hand with dynamite before she was born and died in a very, very weird accident. Both about the danger–and relief–of finding the truth, it’s also a gorgeously written page-turner.”
—Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of Cruel, Beautiful World (see full interview here)
“A warm, engaging read about the ways in which memory distorts our understanding of family.”
—Kirkus Reviews (see full review here)
“There are the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and the stories we discover if we’re brave enough to ask questions. This is the journey Sharon Harrigan takes in her memoir, Playing with Dynamite—a story about a daughter’s search for a missing father, a fractured family narrative, and the uncertain places within herself. Sharon’s descriptions are fresh and her language poetic. The book is filled with pithy reflections on the challenges of memory and her desire to excavate the blank spots in her own experience.”
—Lisa Ellison, Huffington Post (see full interview here)
“Playing With Dynamite pulled me in from the very first page.”
—Trudy Hale, Streetlight Magazine (see full interview here)
For excerpt published in New York Times (Modern Love), click here.
For excerpt published in Lit Hub, click here.
For excerpt published in The Nervous Breakdown, click here.
For excerpt published in Streetlight, click here.
For related essay published in Real Simple, click here.
For self-interview published in The Nervous Breakdown, click here.