BookBrowse Reviews The Ha-Ha by Dave King

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The Ha-Ha

by Dave King

The Ha-Ha by Dave King X
The Ha-Ha by Dave King
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2006, 368 pages

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'One of those fictional everymen who teach you about yourself just by showing up'. Ist Novel

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 first ran in the March 2, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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