Comment: When Howard left his high school girlfriend, Sylvia, to go to Vietnam he hoped
to come home soon; what he should have wished for was to come home slowly, but
safely. Instead he came home with a severe head injury, sustained only 16
days into his tour; the injury leaves him physically and mentally scarred -
words unravel in his mouth and letters on the page make no sense to him.
What nobody understands is that inside he is still the same man he was before
enlisting - still awed by the beauties of the world, and still in love with
Sylvia. Thirty years later he lives in the house he grew up in, with
his housemates - Laurel, a Vietnamese-American caterer and two housepainters who
still think they're high school jocks.
When Sylvia enters a drug rehab clinic she entrusts her nine-year-old son, Ryan, to Howard, and slowly the disparate household starts to mold into a family unit centered around Ryan, but what will happen when Sylvia returns to claim her son?
As Library Journal says, 'a plot summary of this vibrant first novel may sound depressing, but King
handles the story with honesty, skill, and humor'; Booklist adds that, 'the reader is drawn into Howie's world
and roots for him with every first step he takes. In addition, a wealth of
fellow writers add their own reviews, including Anna Quindlen
who writes, '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."
Two opposing visitor reviews for The Ha-Ha sum up this book rather well. The first complains that 'nothing much goes on', whereas the second says that she 'loved this book to the point I would save each chapter until I could really appreciate it.' I suspect that most BookBrowse Members would fall into the latter camp - most of us have gone past the point of wanting 'page turning' action in everything we read, and can appreciate the quieter undercurrents of a book where 'nothing much happens'!
This review is from the March 2, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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