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Playing with Dynamite: A Memoir (Paperback)
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Sharon Harrigan’s father was larger than life, a brilliant but troubled man who blew off his hand with dynamite before she was born and died in a mysterious and bizarre accident when she was seven. The story of his death never made sense. How did he really die? And why was she so sure that asking would be dangerous? A series of events compel her to find the answers, collecting other people’s memories and uncovering her own. Her two-year odyssey takes her from Virginia to Detroit to Paris and finally to the wilds of northern Michigan where her father died. There, she discovers the real danger and has to confront her fear.
Playing with Dynamite is about the family secrets that can distance us from each other and the honesty that can bring us closer. It’s about a daughter who goes looking for her father but finds her mother instead. It’s about memory and truth, grieving and growing, and what it means to go home again.
About the Author
Sharon Harrigan’s essays and short fiction have appeared in The New York Times, Virginian Quarterly Review, and Narrative. She received the Joyce Horton Johnson Award from Key West Literary Seminar and the Kinder Award from Pleaides, as well s fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Hambidge. Educated at Barnard College, Columbia University (BA), and Pacific University (MFA), she teaches memoir writers at WriterHouse, a nonprofit writing center in Charlottesville, where she lives with her husband and children.
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
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? In Playing with Dynamite, Sharon Harrigan is, by turns, both Telemachus and Odysseus, as she embarks on an odyssey to find her father, to find herself, and to find her way home. Her story is both epic and intimate.
—Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
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