An unforgettable first novel about silence, family, and the imperative of
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
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...
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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'Haddon's portrayal of an emotionally dissociated mind is a superb achievement. He is a wise and bleakly funny writer with rare gifts of empathy.'
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