By: Dave King
(Hardcover / 352 Pages / Little, Brown / ISBN: 0316156108 / $23.95)
Description: 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 the same man he was before enlisting, still awed by the beauty of a landscape, still pining for his high school sweetheart, Sylvia.
Verdict: Tony nominee Terry Kinney gives a dramatic and emotionally charged reading of Dave King's debut novel. It takes someone with the ability of voice performer Kinney to inhabit the mind and heart of Vietnam veteran Howie Kapostash. After just a little over two weeks in Vietnam, Howie is rendered speechless by an explosion. Now, he is in mid-life, still unable to speak or communicate save for incoherent sounds. He lives in a rundown house he inherited and earns a meager living by mowing lawns and taking in boarders. His three tenants are a bit unusual - there is Laurel, a Vietnamese-American cook/caterer, and two laid back house painters, whom Howie thinks of as Nit and Nat. While most avoid Howie because he appears to be unstable, he is actually the same person he has always been and is still in love with his high school sweetheart, Sylvia. To him she may be the lovely young girl he remembers but to the world she's a dope addicted neglectful mother who is being sent to rehab. She leaves her 9-year-old son, Ryan, in Howie's care. The presence of a child in their midst changes all four of the adults. Laurel begins to care for Ryan, and Howie finds himself attending school activities. While this growing sense of family involvement might bode for a bright future, there is a dramatic change when Sylvia returns. 'The Ha-Ha' is poignant reminder of the humanity in all of us, and our need to be involved with one another.
Reviewed by Mary Hall