THE HA-HA

Dave King, Author . Little, Brown $23.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-15610-3

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)

Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
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