Between the back cover text, and the cover image, I had rather the wrong idea about the novel: include The Ha-Ha and it feels positively pastoral. It isn't, but it's a good book all the same.Howie isn't likable, exactly, but you do want him to succeed, and given the first half, it isn't as predictable as it sounds at first. Howie, as a character, actually struggles, instead of having contrived setups as obstacles, all of Howie's difficulties are part and parcel of who he is, and it's not really a matter of overcoming.His exact disability isn't clear, although that's hardly necessary. Occasionally as I read, though, I questioned how he was telling his story, considering the original injury specifically affects his ability to communicate, and yet his narration sounds like it was authored by someone with MFA in writing. Still, Dave King does a better job of staying in-character, for such a different character than himself, than most other MFA authors I've read. Ryan and his mother are both good characters: Ryan as a genuine seeming kid, and Sylvia as, well, as selfish, self-centered current and former addict. I really didn't like Sylvia, and I did kind of hope for some redemption of that character, but that couldn't happen in this book, and for that matter wouldn't be one I'd enjoy reading.The Ha-Ha: A Novel is a compelling enough read, I finished it overnight. But if it has a weakness, it's that it's not a visual, textural, sensual sort of novel. If there's one thing I'd expect from a narrator who'd lost his language and all his words, it'd be someone who didn't get paid by the word, so to speak. Like I said, an MFA author. Still, that's not a big flaw, and Howie is interesting enough to convince me to go along anyway.