Synopses & Reviews
A debut novel of extraordinary emotional power: When a mute war veteran opens his home to a young boy, he gets a glimpse of life outside his shell with all its exuberant joys and crushing sorrows.
Its been 30 years since a Vietnam War injury left Howard Kapostash unable to speak, read, or write. Since then he can communicate only with sounds and gestures a condition that makes him appear slow and disturbed. But inside his head, Howie is the same man he was before the war, longing for Sylvia, his high school sweetheart, and mourning his parents and his chance at a family.
Howie's solitude comes to an abrupt end with a desperate phone call in the middle of the night; Sylvia is being forced into rehab and needs him to care for her nine-year-old son Ryan until she returns.
Though Ryan's first days with Howie are strained by misunderstanding, his presence gradually transforms Howie and his entire household, which includes Laurel, a soup chef, and a pair of housepainters Howie grumpily thinks of as Nit and Nat. By midsummer, their once-cold home is alive with the happiness, disappointment, and love of a real family. But with Sylvia's return imminent, Howie is obliged to wonder if the change is only temporary and to reconsider, in the process, just what the war cost him.
Triumphant and heartbreaking, The Ha-Ha tells a singular and engaging story and heralds the arrival of a tremendous new voice in fiction.
"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. Agent, Kim Goldstein at the Susan Golomb Literary Agency. 3-city author tour. (Jan. 11)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Wonderfully accomplished and achingly full of heart." Richard Russo
"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." Anna Quindlen
"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."
"King will be a writer to watch." Kirkus Reviews
"A plot summary of this vibrant first novel may sound depressing, but King handles the story with honesty, skill, and humor." Jim Coan, Library Journal
"There's nothing forced or sentimental here....In the poetic voice of a silent man, King has created a strangely lovable hero whose chance for happiness will matter to you deeply."
Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor
"King's writerly restraint serves his story well....The Ha-Ha is full of emotional truth." New York Times
"It's impossible to read this novel without thinking about our present gloomy war and the emotional casualties suffered by soldiers' families and friends....Equally impressive is the technical achievement of writing a novel from the point of view of a character who cannot speak, read or write." Chicago Tribune
"The Ha-Ha also offers moments of such soaring beauty that there's nothing to do but revel in the shimmering world that's been created." Portland Oregonian
"The ending of The Ha-Ha is neither happy nor sad. Instead, it's...as real as Howard's voice, which will echo long in the reader's ear long after the book is finished." San Francisco Chronicle
"The Ha-Ha is more than its clever literary comparisons....In this extraordinarily good novel, human connectedness may not be all one needs, but it's the only thing worth living for." Orlando Sentinel
"The strength of King's insight as a storyteller is his consistency. He's unwilling to give in to simplistic Hollywood-style endings and contrived transformations." Rocky Mountian News
"[F]or us, transported into Howard's mind by the magic of fiction, his long-silenced voice is irresistible. He's unfailingly honest, determined to survive the second half of his life without succumbing to hope or despair....[T]his is ultimately a story of smothered tenderness coaxed back to flame. In the poetic voice of a silent man, King has created a strangely lovable hero whose chance for happiness will matter to you deeply." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire Christian Science Monitor review
A national bestseller of extraordinary emotional power: When a mute war veteran opens his home to a young boy, he gets a glimpse of life outside his shell with all its exuberant joys and crushing sorrows.
Howard Kapostash has not spoken in thirty years. The small repertory of gestures and simple sounds that he uses to communicate lead most people to assume he is disturbed. No one understands that Howard is still the same man he was before his tragic injury. But when he agrees to help an old girlfriend by opening his home to her nine-year-old son, the presence of this nervous, resourceful boy in his life transforms Howard utterly. He is afforded a rare glimpse of life outside his shell ? with all its exuberant joys and crushing sorrows.
About the Author
Dave King holds a BFA in painting and film from Cooper Union and an MFA in writing from Columbia University. He has been published in The Paris Review and Big City Lit, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in New York.