Dave King, The Ha-Ha. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2005. 340 pages. ISBN 0316156108.
I remember reading book reviews of The Ha-Ha when it first came out, but I'm sorry to say that I didn't read the book until just a few months ago. When I moved into this house in December, I took the opportunity to reorganize my fiction collection and put everything in order by the author's last name. That's how I discovered that I had two copies of The Ha-Ha, in two different editions, both purchased at the AAUW annual used book sale in State College, probably in different years. I gave one copy to my sister Denise, who is a total reading fanatic, and she read it right away and really liked it, so I read it soon after.
The Ha-Ha is about a man (Howard) who lost the ability to communicate after an injury to his brain during the Vietnam war. Twenty or more years later, he has a quiet life, living in the home that he inherited from his parents, and renting rooms out to several acquaintances. Everything changes when he is asked by a former love interest to take care of her son while she goes into drug rehab for several weeks. Those few weeks turns into several months during which Howard comes to care for the boy and learns that there are good reasons to want to communicate. He has shut people out for decades, but recognizes that he has feelings that must be acknowledged. He struggles with his own demons, including alcohol and drugs, and hits bottom before his friends can help him up.
This book is funny and sad; it's impossible to put down and makes the reader root for Howard, Ryan, and the other characters. The only quibble I have with the book is that when Howard hits bottom, he stays there for too long! I got a little impatient with the book at that point. But that is a small detail, and I would recommend this book to anyone.
For those who might be interested in the AAUW book sale, it's one of the largest used book sales in the country. More information about it can be found at this web site: http://www.aauwstatecollege.org/bookSale/
Next year's sale is going to be May 10 through 13, 2014. Books are half price on the third day and go for $5 a bag on the last day.