"A very fine debut novel...a very skilled first novel, a book full of deep feeling rendered with light, sure strokes. It's also one more variation, but a lovely one, on a very old story form, the sensitive heart trapped in a monster's body. Think of Beauty and the Beast or Boo Radley, the well-meaning neighborhood oddity in To Kill a Mockingbird...King etches so expertly the fine filigree of the man's resignation and pain...We go right to the edge with [Howie], and even if we're not always laughing, we're glad to be along for the ride."

—Richard Lacayo

"Accomplished, moving...Devastating. The peace Howard forges in the end, in equal measure hopeful and fragile, hits the mark. King's writerly restraint serves his story well. His novel is unflaggingly believable. Neither showy nor histrionic, The Ha-Ha is full of emotional truth and establishes King as a writer of consequence."

—Mark Kamine
New York Times Book Review

"Jo March, Holden Caulfield, David Copperfield, Alexander Portnoy: many of literature's most memorable novels became so because the protagonist was utterly unforgettable and completely human. That's the key to Dave King's first novel entitled The Ha-Ha. Howard stays with you for a long, long time afterwards, one of those fictional everymen who teach you about yourself just by showing up. I missed him terribly when the book was done."

—Anna Quindlen
Book-of-the-Month Club News

"Everyone who reads this book will have a different moment when Howie becomes that irresistible force, a narrator you'd follow anywhere...Howie's desire to do whatever's right, his ambivalence, his blunt way of seeing things—these qualities make him a wonderful companion...It's a rare pleasure to spend time with someone so utterly incapable of being a hypocrite."

—Claire Dederer

"In the poetic voice of a silent man, King has created a strangely lovable hero whose chance for happiness will matter to you deeply."

—Ron Charles
Christian Science Monitor

"A fine debut novel that fits the true definition of a war story...what makes The Ha-Ha remarkable is that King wisely sidesteps sentimentality."

—John McNally
Chicago Tribune

"The Ha-Ha is a merry, serious inquiry into how love is given and accepted by memorably stirring characters for whom you find yourself cheering. Cheer too for Dave King's accomplished debut."

—Frederick Busch

"King allows us to intimately know and appreciate his characters, and his spare, graceful style is reminiscent of Kent Haruf's Plainsong...But King's prodigious gift is to open up that wall and reveal Howard's rich inner life, and in the process he spins a luminous meditation on war, family, and all the ways we can converse...Absolute power...'We're lucky,' Laurel tells Howard at the end of the book, and it's to King's credit that despite all that happens in the novel, we feel these people are lucky, too."

—Caroline Leavitt
Boston Globe

"What earthly business does Dave King have writing a first novel as wonderfully accomplished and achingly full of heart as The Ha-Ha? That's what the rest of us would like to know."

—Richard Russo

"King writes convincingly from inside Howard, offering entertaining descriptions of the small triumphs and sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic mistakes of a man reaching out to the world from deep inside himself. Recommended for all collections."

Library Journal
(starred review)

"The verdict: A subtly remarkable voice...Unique and compelling...stirring...poignant...King does a convincing job of bringing readers into the melancholy sadness and joyful triumphs of Howard's small, silent world."

—S. Kirk Walsh
Atlanta Journal Constitution

"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...Poise and heart."

Publisher's Weekly

"A solid, deeply felt debut novel...What The Ha-Ha does have in abundance, however, are the qualities that make any novel worth reading: vivid, nuanced characters, a deeply textured story and a highly compelling plot. Oh, and there's more: The writing is excellent...Written with such layered gracefulness...bright gem of a novel...King has succeeded beautifully...The quality of his prose and the care King has taken with his characters and their story make The Ha-Ha a treat well worth savoring. No hooks required."

—Debra Ginsberg
San-Diego Urban Tribune

"Ambitious and original...King's painstaking story tugs at the heart. Howard is an exasperating creation who gives the impression that even if he were able to speak, he would still have trouble communicating...It could not have been easy for King—who in his first book climbs out on a precarious limb to write about drug abuse, war and life as a damaged man—to fashion a character as diffident toward existence as Howard, and so ponderously, with nearly as many steps backward as forward, to return him to life."

—Ian Schwartz

"King has a gift for the kind of easy dialogue that feels like a game of catch, the very thing Howie can't participate in, and his details ring true."

The New Yorker

"Beautifully written...King manages the true grace of his work, allowing the story's final chapters to finish with both heartbreak and hope. One marvel of the ebook his how King manages to pull off Howard's extraordinary transformation with such low-key prose and in such a short time span. A bigger marvel, however, is that we buy into Howard's narrative at all: how can a man without speech speak for 350 pages? But buy into it we do, in much the same way that we suspend disbelief for the dead storyteller in Alice Debold's The Lovely Bones or the Tourette's syndrome-afflicted narrator in Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn. We believe it because the act of reading is itself transcendent, well beyond staring at words on a page. When literature raises us to the higher levels of that transcendence, we have almost a duty to believe—and practical considerations be damned. While The Ha-Ha is a novel of many things—family, friendship, disability, desire—it is mostly a novel of learning to live, of truth and beauty, carrying within it the pain and ugliness those words entail, as well as their more optimistic tones of light and love. King has achieved something important with his first novel: he has given voice to the voiceless."

—Pablo Tanguay
Nashville Scene

"Dave King's The Ha-Ha is the rare first novel that seems to have no literary precedent...King's book is alternately heartbreaking and redemptive. The character of Howard Kapostash is comparable to Yann Martel's Pi Patel (Life of Pi) or Goto Dengo in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon as a character with no literary forebears."

—Regis Behe
Pittsburgh Tribune Review

"Literature is rich with unforgettable narrators—Huckleberry Finn, Holden Caulfield, The Great Gatsby's Nick Carraway, White Noise's Jack Gladney—but none quite so unique as Howard Kapostash in Dave King's debut novel, The Ha-Ha...a novel brimming over with wizened compassion, hard-won humor, and full-blooded tenderness...Haunting, hilarious, and human."

—J. Rentilly

"Howard Kapostash is the addled, tortured and altogether winning hero of Dave King's probing novel, a saga of the American self that addresses the shape of modern family life, the lingering wounds of the Vietnam War and one man's efforts to cope with permanent damage to his left temporal lobe...As ornate as Howard's dysfunction is, in the end, he is, to King's great credit, bracingly like all of us."

—Mark Rozzo
Los Angeles Times

"Wonderful...the novel has so much heart that it feels brand new."

—Nan Goldberg
Newark Star-Ledger


—Kevin Sintumuang

"A beautifully crafted ode to the difficulties of language and love."

—Mark Liebermann

"Subtlety and grace."

Baltimore Sun

"The rich texture of the novel comes in large part through Howie; he's a difficult character—stubborn and moody, kind and gentle, earthy and angry—and so he doesn't fit into any easy mold. His often oafish clowning around and misguided desire for Sylvia bump up against gorgeous moments of understanding....The Ha-Ha is the literal place where Howie experiences rebellion, damnation, shame and salvation. It is also the exclamation and experience readers may have when realizing how deeply Howie Kapostash and his story have affected them."

—Erin Ergenbright
Portland Oregonian


—Jim Coan
Library Journal (starred review)