Summary and book reviews of The Ha-Ha by Dave King

The Ha-Ha

By Dave King

The Ha-Ha
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2005,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2006,
    368 pages.

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About this Book

Book Summary

An unforgettable first novel about silence, family, and the imperative of love.

Howard Kapostash has not spoken in thirty years. Ever since a severe blow to the head during his days in the Army, words unravel in his mouth and letters on the page make no sense at all. Because of his extremely limited communication abilities-a small repertory of gestures and simple sounds--most people think he is disturbed. No one understands that Howard is still the same man he was before enlisting, still awed by the beauty of a landscape, still pining for his high school sweetheart, Sylvia.

Now Sylvia is a single mom with troubles of her own, and she needs Howard's help. She is being hauled into a drug rehab program and she asks Howard to care for her nine-year-old son, Ryan. The presence of this nervous, resourceful boy in Howard's life transforms him utterly. With a child's happiness at stake, communication takes on a fresh urgency, and the routine that Howard has evolved over the years--designed specifically to minimize the agony of human contact--suddenly feels restrictive and even dangerous. Forced out of his groove, Howard finds unexpected delights (in baseball, in work, in meals with his housemates). His home comes alive with the joys, sorrows, and love of a real family. But these changes also open Howard to the risks of loss and to the rage he has spent a lifetime suppressing.

Written with a luminous simplicity and grace, The Ha-Ha follows Howard down his difficult path to a new life. It is a deeply moving and unforgettable story about the cost of war and the infinite worth of human connection.


Also available as an abridged or full length audiobook, read by Terry Kinney

1

WHY AM I HERE? Is it only that Sylvia telephoned so desperately after midnight, and I stood listening by the answering machine as she asked me to take Ryan? Or something bigger? Because before the sun has burned the dew from the grass, here I am. I pull into the driveway and turn off the engine, and Sylvia, who's been standing on the stoop waiting, steps toward the truck. Her sandals slap the flagstones as she approaches.

I should have realized only a truly serious binge could force Sylvia into rehab, but still, I'm shocked by her appearance. Her blonde hair is slicked back so tight that the waves seem painted on her skull, and her face is puffy, especially in the soft patches under her eyes. She has lines where I don't remember seeing lines before and a sore budding on her lower lip. Nevertheless, she's made an effort to clean up. Her white shirt's freshly ironed, and as she leans in the window of the truck, I can smell mouthwash.

"It won't be...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Booklist - Deborah Donovan

King's compelling, compassionate debut revolves around Howie, who suffered a head injury in Vietnam and now can neither speak nor write.....The reader is drawn into Howie's world and roots for him with every first step he takes.

Publishers Weekly

Like Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World, the novel explores familial bonds arising between people with no blood ties, and if the novel lingers too long on its notes, thematic and otherwise..it does so with poise and heart.

Library Journal - Jim Coan

A plot summary of this vibrant first novel may sound depressing, but King handles the story with honesty, skill, and humor....King writes convincingly from inside Howard, offering entertaining descriptions of the small triumphs and sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic mistakes of a man reaching out to the world from deep inside himself. Recommended for all collections.

Kirkus Reviews

First novel about a man badly scarred in Vietnam, and scarred by it, who at last begins recovery....King will be a writer to watch.

Author Blurb Carolyn Parkhurst
In this brave and graceful novel, Dave King vividly connects us to a character whose own connections to the outside world are almost nonexistent. As readers, we get to see inside this man, flawed and funny and complex and tragic as he is, in a way no one around him can, and we are grateful to Dave King for that privilege.

Author Blurb Nicholas Christopher, author of A Trip to the Stars
The Ha-Ha is an immense pleasure. Stylish and assured, filled with wit and wisdom, its narrative depth and rich characterizations are all the more impressive when one considers that this is Mr. King's first novel, the beginning of what promises to be a wonderful journey-for him, and us.

Author Blurb Frederick Busch, author of The Night Inspector
The Ha-Ha is a merry, serious inquiry into how love is given and accepted by a memorable string characters for whom you will find yourself cheering. Cheers too for Dave King's accomplished debut.

Author Blurb Anna Quindlen, Book-of-the-Month Club judge
Jo March, Holden Caulfield, David Copperfield, Alexander Portnoy many of literature's most memorable novels became so because the protagonist was utterly unforgettable and completely human. That's the key to Dave King's first novel entitled The Ha-Ha. Howard stays with you for a long, long time afterward, one of those fictional everymen who teach you about yourself just by showing up. I missed him terribly when the book was done.

Author Blurb Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls
What earthly business does Dave King have writing a first novel as wonderfully accomplished and achingly full of heart as The Ha-Ha?. That's what the rest of us would like to know.

Reader Reviews
Chad

Excellent! A Must Read!
Best book I've read in months. I would compare it favorably to The Memory of Running. It's not always happy or neat and tidy, but I think that King does a great job of trying to relay what it would be like to be unable to communicate effectively ...   Read More

Louise

A wonderfully rewarding read
Contraray to the other review, I loved this book to the point I would save each chapter until I could really appreciate it. It is a wonderfully warm, funny as well as sad glimpse at the life of someone that has very limited communication skills, but ...   Read More

a dooling

I hated this "nothing much goes on" book. Further, it was quite depressing. Nothing gets resolved and there was miles of room for providing some character depth of characters like Nit and Nat and even the cook. His reminising about Mom ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

A ha-ha, or haha (supposedly named for the reaction people had on seeing one), is essentially a large ditch built in place of a fence, to give the appearance that the garden and surrounding lands are as one. It seems that they were introduced into the UK from France in the 18th century by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, or possibly earlier by Charles Bridgeman. They were part of a movement in gardening away from formal gardens to a more 'natural' style of landscaping.

As King says, 'there's an actual ha-ha (in the novel), of course, and it plays a major role in the story, but the symbolic relevance is the presence of a huge unaddressed...

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