Bookmonger: Fatherless sons find redemption in Tacoma novels

“Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy” by M.D. Moore and “The Shadow of Seth” by Tom Llewellyn

This week we’re going to take a look at two novels about boys who grew up fatherless, and with mothers who were dealing with their own personal challenges. These conditions make for some bleak situations, although both of the stories contain redemptive elements.

“Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy” – what a great title! – takes place in the fictional city of Point Defiance – author M.D. Moore is a native of Tacoma.

Two middle-aged brothers – Harmon and Constantine (Connie) – have never made much of themselves. Harmon has anger-management issues – with two convictions already under his belt, he is one strike away from being imprisoned for life if he doesn’t clean up his act. And Connie is a multiple drunk-driving offender.

Their mentally-ill mom, CeCe, has spent as much time at Rainier Psychiatric Treatment Center as she has at home, and with age her condition is worsening.

To make matters worse, Harmon has been diagnosed with cancer and is trying to figure out a way to scrape together enough money to pay for his treatment.

Then Emmy, Harmon’s high school flame, shows up at his dump of a furniture repair shop, asking for shelter. She is fleeing her abusive husband, Frank. And since Frank is the corrupt mayor of Point Defiance, he has all kinds of resources at his beck and call that he can use to make Harmon’s life miserable.

It’s enough to make our flawed protagonist finally seek a mental health professional. He winds up with Boyd Freud, an unorthodox counselor who is himself an ex-con. Boyd helps Harmon examine his past to figure out how his circumstances and choices have led to this point.

This book has some rough expository patches and is tied up too neatly at the end, but the lead characters are complex and engaging.

The other book is aimed at teens. “The Shadow of Seth,” is by Tacoma author Tom Llewellyn, who writes about his town’s seamier side with loving attention to detail.

Seth Anomundy is 16 years old and life isn’t easy. His mom is a cleaning lady and drug addict, and Seth fills in with odd jobs where he can – working as a sparring partner at a boxing gym, filling in as a short order cook, and working as an errand boy for an Old World clock repairman.

But when his mother is found murdered, Seth knows life is going to get even harder. The case doesn’t get much attention from the cops, so Seth decides to track down her killer.

A beautiful rich girl he has just met on one of his clock delivery runs takes a shine to him and tries to help – but the jocks in her upscale crowd come after Seth with a message to stick to his own kind.

On the other end of the spectrum, a teen thug called King George (a marvelous character!) also has Seth in his sights.

Meanwhile, not all of the adults Seth typically counts on are there to help.

Billed as a mystery, “The Shadow of Seth” is also an incisive look at poverty and social injustice.

The Bookmonger review appears each week in Take Five. For more entertainment, go to BellinghamHerald.com/entertainment.