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The Ha Ha

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  2,846 Ratings  ·  419 Reviews
"Howard Kapostash has not spoken in thirty years. Ever since a severe blow to the head during his days in the army, words unravel in his mouth and letters on the page make no sense at all. Because of his extremely limited communication abilities - a small repertory of gestures and simple sounds - most people think he is disturbed. No one understands that Howard is still th ...more
Published (first published January 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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David
Jul 05, 2007 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I kept waiting for this book to veer into mawkishness, and it is to Dave King's enormous credit that he managed to avoid this particular trap. For a first novel, this is pretty impressive, and I will definitely be on the lookout for further work by this author.

Not a perfect book by any means, but a very good one. It has an understated power that creeps up on you. I recommend it highly. I'm deliberately stingy with my five-star ratings, but I did consider it here. Which probably translates to 4.
...more
LeAnne
Phenomenal story of redemption. Howard had barely made it to Viet Nam when a head injury sent him to the VA hospital, then rehabilitation, and ultimately back home to his parents' house. While his faculties are intact and he moves just fine, his ability to form words - written or spoken - has been taken away by the brain injury. But Howard still can think - very clearly - and what he has to say as the story's narrator is excellent.

Imagine a highly intelligent man stuck in a menial lawn mowing j
...more
Lori
Sep 18, 2007 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I picked this up as a harcover on sale for 5 bucks, read the flap and thought, ok, this might work...

Wow. It is such a great story written in such an easy, down to earth, everyman (but not, as youll soon see) tone....

The main character had severe head trama in the war at a young age, came home, had surgery, but lost the ability to speak, and write and sometimes has trouble reading. He is normal in every other sense of the word. Holds down a job, has a few close friends, manages to get by on his
...more
John
Aug 23, 2007 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I listened to the unabridged audio, and can highly recommend it. Howard is mute, yet you're hearing his thoughts, a far more intense experience than reading them in print. Moreover, the narrator does a great job with the other characters as well, especially Laurel's soft Texas twang.
Mara
Jun 02, 2008 Mara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the title might lead one to think that it's funny, this book was described to me as "depressing." In fact, the title refers to a type of hidden retaining wall, rather than laughter. Either way, though, I wouldn't describe the book depressing myself, aside from the steep slide downward toward the end.

Rather, I'd say this book is astonishingly hopeful. Our main character has overcome a great deal of adversity, and managed to make a life for himself despite an injury that has left him unab
...more
Candice
I enjoyed this book, but not a lot. The main character, Howard, suffered a severe head injury in Vietnam and cannot speak. He has much difficulty reading, and can barely write as well. So how did he tell this story? I know I probably shouldn't wonder about this, but I do. It was a sweet story, with mostly well-developed characters.

Howard is asked by his ex-girlfriend to care for her 9-year-old son while she is in rehab. Predictably, the veteran and the boy form a bond. It is not all sweetness. T
...more
gaudeo
Aug 25, 2011 gaudeo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, the author's first novel, centers on Howard, a man whose Vietnam injury left him speechless yet still sound of mind. This malady makes for a very interesting story, especially as other characters misunderstand his actions, especially at the book's climax. King's talented work brings to mind Mark Haddon's "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" and Emma Healey's "Elizabeth Is Missing," each of which also tells a story from the perspective of a "disabled" narrator. King is no le ...more
jimtown
Mar 05, 2012 jimtown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meeting Howard and reading his thoughts, things he's been unable to voice for thirty years was a like meeting a new friend that seems as if you've known forever. The first 3/4 of The Ha-Ha was mild and entertaining. The idea for this book and character was inspired. The whole cast of characters is well thought out. After a huge setback in his life, Howard still hangs on to every word and every movement and the tentative friendship of Sylvia who can do no wrong in his eyes. When she calls on Howa ...more
Mom2nine
Jun 27, 2014 Mom2nine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story deals with difficult issues in a very believable manner. I felt as though every character played his/her part well, from the 9 yr. old, to the former jock 20 somethings to the drug addict mom and the main character Vietnam vet, head-injury Howard. King was into Howard's head and I could feel his pain. I kept wondering what would I do to help and what could the people around him do. A few of the reviews felt as though the war happened 20 yrs ago and he should have found a way to commun ...more
Sandy
Oct 17, 2008 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I would not have picked up without the recommendation from a friend -- and I really enjoyed it. It is about a man injured in the Vietnam War and now cannot speak. A Ha Ha is a burm or wall errected so that an illusion is created. A person looking out would see a landscape, for example, and not see what is really there -- like a highway below the burm.
Rachael
Jun 30, 2008 Rachael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
30 years ago, after only 16 days in Vietnam, Howard was in an accident and suffered severe brain damage. Now he can neither speak, read, or write though he is of normal intelligence. Sounds like a sappy set-up, especailly when you through in an ex-girlfriend who is now a coked-up bitch on her way to rehab leaving her 9 year old son with Howard. King is able to do more than I anticipated with this character and his circumstances, all without becoming overly trite and 'redeeming'. Howard doesn't c ...more
Rachel
Jun 10, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I originally bought this book for Dan at a yard sale last summer but ended up reading it myself this summer. It's a sentimental tale of a mute Vietnam war veteran who must care for a boy while his mother's recovering from a drug problem. King does a good job of helping the reader to empathize with the narrator's frustrations as he struggles to communicate with the people around him and build more meaningful relationships. King is also skilled at tracking the mundane chores and behaviors of daily ...more
Bark's Book Nonsense
This book was an easy listen and held my attention. My only complaint is that it seemed to only brush the surface of the complex emotions boiling beneath. This may not be the fault of the author as this version was abridged and I typically avoid abridgements for this reason and the fact that I hate to miss anything when listening to a novel.

I found it interesting to read a book from the point of view of a character who cannot communicate with others via speech or writing and who has isolated him
...more
Carol
Jun 06, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really liked this book. All of the core characters are so richly developed, and the author puts us right into the main character, Howard's, head. The story vacillates from heartwrenching to joyous and everything in between.

From Howard's situation of being appointed caretaker of a 9-year-old boy, the reader sees Howard's life transform from almost robot-like with only token interaction with others, to one of depth and rich relationships.

And maybe Howard wasn't ready to feel so "human", as he u
...more
Latarsha
The only issue I had with this book was I couldn't believe that a man who can't speak and can't write but understands what is being said around him did not learn how to read lips or sign language. Something about this character willfully relying on others to understand and interpret the world around him rang false. Why be so independent yet so unwilling to engage the world around you? I understand he's broken by what happened to him and still in mourning for a life that he thought was his, but t ...more
Kiessa
Jun 06, 2013 Kiessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read somewhere that this was one of the best books of 2005.... I could see how some would think so.

Smooth and full of life, this novel is a delightfully satisfying, believable and well written work of art that reminds me of Lori Lansens' writing. The characters are flawed and quirky, but are so well developed and evolving that they are likeable despite their failings.

I would not have chosen this book by the title itself or the back cover summary, so I was glad to have come upon this book on a
...more
Marilyn
Mar 14, 2011 Marilyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impressive first novel. A story that could turn to "depressing" really fast, never did that. I felt it was uplifting most of the time, and when it got sad (the first time I have cried over a novel in a long long time) you cry for the people who can't begin to understand what this man is experiencing. Through it all Howard is acutely aware of his shortcomings and deals with them in expected ways, even when he loses it! (who wouldn't under the circumstances) I would give this novel 4 and a half st ...more
Sheryl
Jul 25, 2007 Sheryl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Howard, a Vietnam vet, was injured in the war, and lost his ability to speak. His former girlfriend is a coke addict looking for a place to leave her son while she goes to rehab, and Howard, who is at her beckon call, takes him in. The story, which has great potential, never takes off. Not only that, but the premise that Howard never learned sign language, or any method of communication isn't believable. This dog just wont hunt.
Tamsen
Jun 14, 2011 Tamsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is written from the perspective of a mute. Howie can't talk due to an injury sustained in Vietnam, and his brain's malfunctioning doesn't allow him to write or read either. Reading is a silent activity, but this is a book that made me feel even more silent. Contemplating Howie's life and reading about his struggles to communicate was even better than the plot to me.
Elise
Aug 23, 2011 Elise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very moving book with a completely new sort of protagonist. An interesting read to do right after putting down "Matterhorn." I wasn't crazy about the last fifth of the story but otherwise, I was really riveted by the writing and became very fond of the characters. Excellent writing about a boy from a man without children, also, which is impressive.
Chana Baichman
Jul 11, 2008 Chana Baichman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book I have read in a long time, you will fall in love with these characters. I missed them and could not stop thinking about them after I had finished reading. Just of bunch of unusual people thrown together by life. You must read this!
Charlotte
Mar 07, 2008 Charlotte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: speakers, teachers, people who like soup
Oh! I loved this book. The ones I love I can never think of anything specific to say about them. I loved the voice and the characters and the ending and the boy in it also. yes.
Michelle  Varrin
Apr 25, 2012 Michelle Varrin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book for everyone. Beautifully written, funny, lovely, made life better for having read it.
Martha
Mar 04, 2017 Martha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Met the author and learned about this novel at a Christmas eve party. Liked him & found it interesting that someone had purchased movie rights a few years ago but nothing else had happened.
So, not expecting much, I ordered the book - almost to be polite.
Wow! I loved this book. Touches a lot of bases- drug-abusing single mother, suffering mixed-race child, war-damaged vet, a "family", more powerful than blood-related family, created by serendipity.
Just when one got lulled into idea of "happy
...more
David Stone
May 21, 2015 David Stone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine after suffering a severe brain injury due to trauma, that you’ve retained the majority of your intellectual capability except for speaking, reading and writing; you’re ability to communicate is outwardly is stymied, but your thought processes are intact. This is the world of Howie, the protagonist of “The Ha Ha”, a veteran of the Vietnam War, a man who suffers the indignity of losing his communication skills, where to strangers who view his affliction, people who haven’t spent the time t ...more
Marie
Between the back cover text, and the cover image, I had rather the wrong idea about the novel: include The Ha-Ha and it feels positively pastoral.

It isn't, but it's a good book all the same.

Howie isn't likable, exactly, but you do want him to succeed, and given the first half, it isn't as predictable as it sounds at first. Howie, as a character, actually struggles, instead of having contrived setups as obstacles, all of Howie's difficulties are part and parcel of who he is, and it's not really
...more
Jackie
This compelling, powerful story of war and it after-effects, love and denial, and sins and redemption is both truly heart-aching and hopeful. Howard Kapostash was sent to Vietnam in his eighteenth year and spent a mere couple of weeks there. He was horribly and cruelly injured in a way that changed his life, his persona and his relationships forevermore. Part of his brain was shattered and from that point on, he could not speak, write or read. But, he could understand everything that was spoken ...more
Book Club Mom
Sep 22, 2013 Book Club Mom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A ha ha is a turfed ditch

Warning: Some spoilers below...

The Ha Ha is an excellent novel about a Viet Nam vet with a severe brain injury, leaving him unable to speak. Thirty years after returning from Viet Nam, Howard Kapostash suddenly finds himself taking care of 9-year-old Ryan, whose mother Sylvia (Howard’s high school girlfriend) is in rehab for a cocaine addiction. Howard is middle-aged. His parents are dead. He lives in the house he grew up in with a detached group of boarders. Laurel, the
...more
Kathy
Mar 03, 2014 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathy by: Book group choice.
This book has a good story and Dave King is a good writer. The story is about creating family.

While reading The Ha-Ha, I occasionally paused to ponder how Howard, the narrator and protagonist, could be telling his story since he cannot speak or write. Sentences that are perfectly formed in his mind are garbled when he speaks and forgotten as he struggles to write them. Howard communicates with gestures and facial and body expressions. He also has tremendous difficulty reading.

Does the book exist
...more
Bekah Stogner
"Yes, I've known tragedy, but I live in my own house. I work and sleep and carry on, and my tragedy doesn't govern me, no matter what you may have imagined."

This was one of a couple books my mom wanted to give away that I saved for myself, and while I guess I'm glad I read it, it wasn't anything near what it could have been. Dave King's first novel tells the story of Howard, a disabled war veteran who has lost his ability of speech, though he can fully think. His old high school flame asks him
...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Can't find the right Dave King 2 19 Apr 18, 2012 04:15AM  
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27307
Dave King holds a BFA in painting
and film from Cooper Union and an MFA in writing from Columbia University. King's debut novel, The Ha-Ha, was named one of the best books of 2005 by The Christian Science Monitor and The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was among eighteen books included on The Washington Post list of the season's best novels. The Ha-Ha was a finalist for Book-of-the-Month Club's "Best
...more
More about Dave King...

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