Author: Dave King. This is his first novel.
Pages: 340. Starts slow and first 100 pages are tough but picks up after that.
Rating: 84/100 - Slow, and action is limited, but good characters and alot of wisdom inside.
Amazon: Buy The Ha-Ha
The Ha-Ha is the story of a middle aged man named Howard Kapostash who can't speak, read or write due to a devastating accident he sustained over thirty years ago in Vietnam. Thankfully, the wonderful world of fiction takes the reader inside his head in a first person narrative and allows one to understand Howard way too well. For a dude who is a mute (although of normal intelligence) Howard is in pretty good shape. He has a job, owns a house (passed down from his deceased parents) and has roommates who help take care of the daily chores. Howard though is cut off from the world and is an empty shell never able to overcome the accident of his youth, and forlorn with his failure at recovery.
The story takes its dramatic twist when Howard's high school love Sylvia, who is now strung out on drugs decides to go to rehab and leaves Ryan, her nine year old son, with Howard. The half white, half black (father is unknown) child forms a relationship with Howie which allows them both to experience new emotions, trust, vulnerability -- yada yada. (For all you Lost fanatics out there, the child is eerily similar to Walt.)
King does a good job keeping the story realistic, keeping his characters consistent and making the protagonist's transformation subtle yet extraordinary.
The Ha-Ha is one of those novels your mother would read. In fact, my mother gave me the book to read so I could participate in her book club, meet her book club leader and hopefully learn the tricks of the trade (a major goal in my life is to start a book club - hence this blog). Yes, that did put me in the awkward position of sitting around with a bunch of Jewish yenta mothers, sipping coffee and yenting away about the novel.
The discussion was actually pretty interesting and the group leader is one of those amazing high school English teachers that can break down a novel and unlock all the hidden meaning from the pages. Some of the most powerful passages and themes in the book are somewhat subtle and really materialized for me during the discussion. Some light was also shed on what the heck a "Ha-Ha" is and why it was used as the title of the book. I would get into detail on both these discussions, but it has been a week since the book club and it's already too foggy in my head to give a concise and accurate explanation.
Oh well, if you read the book let me know what you think.