I picked this one up on a whim last Sunday while at the library, just browsing through the available audiobook CDs. I’m really glad I decided to check this one out!
First off, a Ha-ha is a term in garden design that refers to a trench, one side of which is concealed from view, designed to allow an unobstructed view from a garden, pleasure-ground, or park, while maintaining a physical barrier in one direction, usually to keep livestock out that are kept on an expansive estate or parcel.
It is quite understandable now after learning what a Ha-ha is, why this book has been given this title, as it perfectly describes Howard Kapostash and the barrier he has erected around his life, keeping all those close to him on the outside.
Howard is left with no ability to speak and has an impressively weird looking scar on his head. Although he has cards explaining that he is mute but is of normal intelligence, it is difficult for others to recognize this. Thus, he has built his own Ha-ha around him, including the 3 people he lives/rents his house out with. When his high school love needs to enter re-hab for the countless time she uses him (for the countless time) and leaves him to care for her son Ryan.
And here is the beauty and wonder of this story. The impact a child can have on a person’s life and all those in it, is a wonderful joyous treat. Howard’s love for Ryan is tremendous as he realizes he’s been shutting many out of his life, and failing to properly live and accept his disability. This story not only shows the transformation of Howard, but also how Ryan adapts more willingly. And no matter how quirky the hodge-podge of characters may be, you can count on them to come together and be your family. This 9-year old boy is responsible for getting Howard to break down his Ha-ha, accept the “family” he has and break out of his shell.
Unfortunately, Howard’s new outlook on life does not come without terrible heartbreak. Ryan’s mother is an idiot and doesn’t consider the impact that 2 months of having your son cared for by someone else has on all involved. Once again Howard’s feelings/his intelligence is not even considered when Sylvia reclaims Ryan with no inclination of the impact of severing the bonds created between Howard and Ryan.
As an audio-book, this was very enjoyable and nicely done. The story crept up on you in a very nice way, and I liked how the soft tinklings of music would signify the beginning or end of a CD as well as in little spots throughout.
I’m giving it 4-stars because it was a very enjoyable story, no, not perfection or jump up and down fantastic, but just something that I enjoyed sitting back and listening to each morning and late afternoon.
Description (from Goodreads): 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. Now Sylvia is a single mom with troubles of her own, and she needs Howard’s help. She is being hauled into a drug rehab program and she asks Howard to care for her nine-year-old son, Ryan. The presence of this nervous, resourceful boy in Howard’s life transforms him utterly. With a child’s happiness at stake, communication takes on a fresh urgency, and the routine that Howard has evolved over the years – designed specifically to minimize the agony of human contact – suddenly feels restrictive and even dangerous. Forced out of his groove, Howard finds unexpected delights – in baseball, in work, in meals with his housemates. His home comes alive with the joys, sorrows, and love of a real family. But these changes also open Howard to the risks of loss and to the rage he has spent a lifetime suppressing.” The Ha-Ha follows Howard down his difficult path to a new life. It is a story about the cost of war and the infinite worth of human connection.