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The Ha-Ha: A Novel Paperback – March 6, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (March 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316010715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316010719
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Peel back the made-for-TV-movie premise of Dave King's The Ha-Ha and you'll find a shrewd, engrossing, and occasionally gritty first novel in the tradition of Jane Smiley. Howard is a brain-damaged Vietnam vet who can't speak or write, but who has managed to establish a reasonably good life in his small Midwestern hometown. In fact, Howard's chief limitation isn't his silence but his lingering romantic attachment to his high school girlfriend, Sylvia, now the drug-addicted single mother of a nine-year-old boy named Ryan (not Howard's child). Accustomed to Howard's devotion--and equally accustomed to rejecting his love, like a campfire she pees on again and again--Sylvia more or less dumps Ryan on him when she is forced to enter rehab. Yes, the handicapped vet must forge a relationship with the sullen fatherless boy. With material as Hallmark-tinged like this, it's only through vivid, honest, and far from syrupy characterization that King keeps sentimentality at bay. You can predict what happens when the gruff Howard begins to coach Little League (aw, shucks), but not his ferocious reaction to Sylvia's eventual betrayal. A skillful debut with several surprises. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Owing to a head injury he suffered 16 days into his Vietnam tour, Howard Kapostash, the narrator of King's graceful, measured debut novel, can neither speak, write nor read. Now middle-aged, Howard lives a lackluster existence in the house where he grew up, along with housemates Laurel, a Vietnamese-American maker of gourmet soups for local restaurants, and two housepainters—essentially interchangeable postcollege jocks—whom he refers to as Nit and Nat. But everything changes when Sylvia, the former girlfriend he's loved since high school, heads to drug rehab, saddling Howard with Ryan, her taciturn nine-year-old son. What happens over the course of the next couple hundred pages will not surprise readers—slowly, Nit and Nat learn responsibility, Laurel discovers her maternal side, Ryan opens up and Howie learns about life and love amid school concerts and Little League games—but it is lovingly rendered in careful, steady prose. 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—Howard often ruminates on the nature of his injury and the things he'd say if he could; his days vary little—it does so with poise and heart. Drama arises with Sylvia's return and Howard nearly loses it, but life and healing are now forever possible.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The story is well-developed and the characters are very real.
Beth Z
This writer shows great heart and caring in telling Howard's story, and I just hope it wasn't just some experiment in creative writing.
Yasmin H. McEwen
Communication is all we have to reach out to another person; to engender love or hate; to learn and share experience.
Pattee Fletcher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's a cliché but I found myself rationing the amount of this book I would read each day because I didn't want it to end and I wanted to savor its unselfconscious wisdom slowly. Frankly, I've never read anything like it. It's told from inside the head of a man whose Vietnam War head injury leaves him unable to speak. But his internal monolog is so rich, observant, feelingful that the pain of his not being able to express himself except through his actions becomes a paean to the virtues of patience over adversity, expression of love through loving actions rather than words, and the wisdom of living life as it is, not as it might have been. King's prose is carefully and poetically chosen. His observations of the little things feel true and important. I am ready to predict from this first novel that this is an important writer just revving up for a huge career.

Scott Morrison
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jacamar Rose on December 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book, so different from most of today's action/romance schlock, grabs your heart and twists it until it breaks, yet the humanity of the characters offers hope to alleviate the pain. Dave King brings a profound empathy to his story of a man thrust inward by his disability who learns that he still can have a meaningful - even fulfilling - life, can reach out to make a difference in the lives of others, can move beyond his decades-old memories. Not an easy read, but an important one which will stay with you long after the last page is read. This is literature at its finest.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Working Novelist on January 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dave King's THE HA-HA gives a unique look into the mind of a man unable to speak, and while this novel succeeds on many levels, its greatest success comes in effectively duplicating in the reader's mind the same frustrations felt by the lead character, Howard. At every turn, this story tugs at your heartstrings, making you wish poor Howard were able to communicate his feelings for his old flame, Sylvia, and her son, Ryan. This is a true tour de force of point-of-view characterization, and for any readers who enjoy a good character-driven story, this is a remarkable novel.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By KatPanama on February 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At first I feared this would be one of those novels that made me wish I lived in such a wondrously blessed placed but, happily (?), the book doesn't go in that direction and that's its saving grace. Yet, it is chock full of flawed characters the reader comes to regard affectionately or appreciatively and there's only one particularly fecklessly evil player (and even she isn't so much evil as disgustingly selfish). All set in a mid-western town so well drawn. LOVED this book! It's a debut; can't wait to see what King does next. Heh, no pressure, buddy. But, hurry up please, Dave King. My god you've done good!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Vernick on July 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
What a great book.

Dave King has rendered the inner world of the mostly silent Howard with deft strokes. I find myself thinking about Howard and his housemates still, days after I finished reading, and hoping all is well.

Howard is a damaged character. But he is far from pitiful. I was so glad that King found a way to avoid the Forrest Gump detour he seemed headed for. King (and Howard) are brilliant observers of life--his portrayal of the Snakes baseball team, one level below the official little league teams--was dead on. Beyond that, the world that Howard built for himself in the wake of his brain-damaging war injury and parents' deaths, gives me hope. I love that he is finding his way through this world.

This book stays with you.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Pattee Fletcher on February 26, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very very few books have touched my soul as did The Ha Ha. As I read it, I had to stop many times to contemplate Howard's existence; his world. What might if feel like to be this extraordinary yet prosaic protagonist. How do we communicate as one human being to another? What happens to our world and our relationships when we cannot speak or read or write - but can still think and feel? Author Dave King casts a brilliant light on this compelling and at times heartbreaking condition - to think but not to speak. To hear but not to be able to respond. To understand but not have the ability to read. Communication is all we have to reach out to another person; to engender love or hate; to learn and share experience. Yet in some subtle way, Howard is able to tell os of his life through the words of King. It is extraordinary and subtle.

I had to stop at various points in the book to let myself feel the events in the daily lives of the protagonist and of the very few people with whom he creates a bond. Howard's inability to communicate in the conventional sense does not leave us with a bitter or solitary man. Rather, through his daily experiences, sad, funny, frustrating, hopeful we feel Howard's reality as less than an end to his life but instead, an example of the wonderful ability we all have to go beyond our capabilities, to be "better than ourselves."

This is a very special book making the reader want to contemplate many of the daily events, banal and monumental, that make up the character of our own lives. I found the mundane events of Howard's life to be the most profound and touching. His view of the world has a puzzled clarity to it which made him "real" to me.

And I am ever so grateful that our world has those few very special writers who offer us such a gifts as this illuminating book of a life.
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