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Catalog Archive / Fall 2021

Playing with Dynamite
A Memoir

Winner of 2018 International Book Award for Autobiography/Memoir
Finalist for 2018 International Book Award for Best New Non-Fiction

Playing with Dynamite pulled me in from the very first page.”
—Trudy Hale, Streetlight Magazine

“A warm, engaging read about the ways in which memory distorts our understanding of family.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Sharon Harrigan has written a thrilling memoir about searching for the truth about her dad. . . . 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

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.


Sharon Harrigan. Sharon Harrigan teaches at WriterHouse, a nonprofit literary center in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is the author of Half. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in the New York Times (Modern Love), Narrative, and Virginia Quarterly Review.

Sharon Harrigan's Website -




“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



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April 2021
LC: 2017017003
248 pp. 5.5 x 8.5

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Paper $16.95
ISBN 9780299335045
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