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Playing with Dynamite: A Memoir

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4.60  ·  Rating details ·  30 ratings  ·  16 reviews
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, collec ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published October 1st 2017 by Truman State University Press
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Brian Burmeister
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Who we are is a complicated thing. Interactions influence perceptions, and perceptions influence memories. Having lost her father in a tragic accident when she was only seven, author Sharon Harrigan attempts to unravel the mystery of the man her father was in the powerful new memoir Playing with Dynamite. “I was relieved when he died,” her brother wrote her in an email. “It’s terrible to say, but it’s true.”

The email causes her to question her own memories of the father who had died decades earl
...more
Lisa Ellison
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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. Structured like the Odyssey, a book her brother read to her as a child, Sharon’s quest begins as a search for her father –a man who died when she was only seven. A man who is both mythos (a superhuman one-armed welder who can drive with no hands), and absent memory.

Along the way Sharon discovers
...more
Susan DeFreitas
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The nature of memory, the mythology we create around our parents, Michigan, France, New York, love and marriage, motherhood--PLAYING WITH DYNAMITE is about all of these things, but also so much more. This searching, honest, vulnerable memoir settled deep inside me as a I read it, prompting me to ask questions of my own life--and my own relationship to my parents--I'd never even considered. This is the kind of memoir that will increase your emotional IQ, making you smarter about your own life, an ...more
Heidi Poon
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sharon finds herself embarassed to be left with only the word, "Wow", in response to her Uncle's revelations. That's how I feel about the book which just plowed into my day. Wow.
Tabitha Blankenbiller
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Playing with Dynamite" may be a book about a woman reconstructing a relationship with her deceased father, but like the best examples of the memoir genre, Harrigan vastly transcends what a one-line blurb can encapsulate. By piecing together the life, personality, and relationships that her father left behind in his early death (suddenly in a car accident when she was a child), she doesn't simply discover a lost parent. The life of a one-armed man who lost his limb while playing with dynamite le ...more
Story Circle Book Reviews
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
When my father took my six-year-old sister on a trip to kill a deer, the deer killed him. They were still winding their way Up North, driving the four-hour trip from suburban Detroit to the country. In the pre-dawn fog, a buck ran into the middle of the road, the soft-top Jeep crashed, turned upside down, and crushed my father. My sister survived, and my mother was left to care for three small, bewildered children on her own. My brother was nine, I was seven. My father was thirty-two, my mother
...more
Mary Jo Doig
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When my father took my six-year-old sister on a trip to kill a deer, the deer killed him. They were still winding their way Up North, driving the four-hour trip from suburban Detroit to the country. In the pre-dawn fog, a buck ran into the middle of the road, the soft-top Jeep crashed, turned upside down, and crushed my father. My sister survived, and my mother was left to care for three small, bewildered children on her own. My brother was nine, I was seven. My father was thirty-two, my mother ...more
Luann Mae
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
How accurate are our childhood memories? What happens when family secrets are kept for decades?
Sharon Harrigan, in her journey to find answers, manages to heal herself, help her own children with their struggles, and write a deeply touching memoir.
At age 7 and one of 3 young siblings, Sharon loses her father in a car accident. As a teenager, her father was literally "playing with dynamite" and lost his right arm. Sharon fears she's playing with dynamite as she seeks the truth about her father's
...more
Kristin
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Cautious. If there is one thing having a father who lost his hand to a stick of dynamite and later dies in a car crash teaches you, it's to be cautious. Cautious not to ask the wrong questions. Cautious not to upset your family. And to shrink away from attention as a preventive, cautious measure. Through the arc of the memoir, Harrigan grows as a character, away from caution, but still attracted to those who crave it - like her ex-husband. By the end she completes her Odyssey, finding ways to br ...more
Shawna Seed
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sharon Harrigan's father died in an accident when she was in grade school. He was on his way to hunt deer, and a deer ran in front of his jeep, causing a wreck. That's what she believed.

But was it true?

I loved this memoir about the author's quest to know more about her father, to locate the real person in her hazy memories and her relatives' larger-than-life tales.

She beautifully evokes how absence and silence shape families, and how we can unintentionally repeat destructive patterns.

She als
...more
Carole Duff
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Why don’t we ask questions of family members? Because the answers might kill the stories we tell ourselves. Because the answers might blow up the images we’ve created. Because the answers might make us older and wiser.

Playing with Dynamite is Sharon Harrigan’s Odyssey to discover her father who died in a car accident when she was seven. During her journey, Sharon discovers new sides to her father and mother, other family members, and herself.

The answers will surprise.
Lori Horvitz
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Prompted by the burning curiosity about the father she barely knew, Sharon Harrigan takes us on a journey that leads to the unearthing/shattering of one family myth, only to be recreated into a stunning narrative—not just about her father—but also about, among other discoveries, the resilience and spirit she recognizes within herself. Playing with Dynamite is written with eloquence, grace and generosity. I highly recommend it!
Melissa
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Compelling memoir about the author's journey to understand the creation of the mythology she and other family members had built around her father and his early death. Highlights the way in which memory is fallible, often shaped by individual perspective, and can become collective. At heart, Harrigan explores the way in which we create stories about our family in order to form our own identities.
Rebecca P
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From a single human quest to "find the father", Playing with Dynamite showed me what we all have in common. It opened a window into the world of a part of the US that I don't normally have access to.
Lizzie
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Some interesting revelations spread thinly through an otherwise unremarkable memoir. Would have benefitted from a very thorough edit.
Robert Young
rated it it was amazing
Apr 23, 2018
Literary Mama
Sharon Harrigan's Playing with Dynamite: A Memoir is an engaging, complex book. It propels the reader through time as Harrigan tries to make sense of her father's untimely death, which occurred when she was seven years old. Harrigan's journey begins when, as an adult, she writes an essay that raises questions about her father's death and the accuracy of her memories. Digging into the past, Harrigan realizes that her memories do not necessarily match those of her siblings or her mother, and she c ...more
Holly Hueston
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Dec 20, 2017
Glen Hepker
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May 18, 2018
Shannon
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Holly Hueston
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James
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Melissa Cheresnick
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Sharon Harrigan is the author of Playing with Dynamite: A Memoir. . Her short work has appeared in the New York Times (Modern Love), Virginia Quarterly Review, and Narrative. She received the Joyce Horton Johnson Award from Key West Literary Seminar and the Kinder Award from Pleaides, as well as fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Hambidge. A graduate of Barnard College, ...more