The Tigers of Lents is the story of the Garrison family. At the heart of it, the three Garrison sisters: Sara, the eldest, a fiery soccer star on the verge of pulling herself out of the life of poverty she’s always known; Elaine, shy and struggling with the weight she carries both physically and mentally; and Rachel, a reader and poet whose imagination stalls at trying to picture a better life.
Tigers is set mainly in Lents, an outer neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, beginning in 2010. Lents is made up, in part, of evictions, chain-link fences, and gravel roads, and the Garrison family’s journey reveals an often misunderstood American existence. The girls’ hard-edged mother, Melanie, works full-time as a grocery store cashier, and their estranged father, Keith, is about to return to Lents after serving a six-year prison term for burglary and wants desperately to reconnect with his daughters.
Even as the Garrisons struggle to communicate with each other, as they battle self-doubts and at times self-sabotage, they draw on a fierce shared strength that allows them to push back at their reality. Through it all, each Garrison fights to keep their dignity — often with daily acts of grace and good humor — and to prove to themselves and each other that they should not be underestimated.
The Tigers of Lents is a rich exploration of class, neighborhood and, especially, the bonds—frayed, inescapable—of a family through time. Traveling with the Garrison sisters is an emotionally fraught and rewarding experience, deepened by detailed evocation of place and time, as well as a soundtrack that ranges from the Pet Shop Boys to Ratt to Jelly Roll Morton. I believe in these people. I worried about and hope for them.
- Peter Rock, author of My Abandonment
When Hieu Nguyen, a Portland high school teacher, is accused of sexual misconduct by two of his students, his close friend and colleague Nate Davis tries to lend support. But Nate has recently been assaulted by a former student in the school parking lot, an event that brings on not only sharp anxiety, but a final push into a long-deferred quest to find out what happened to his uncle, a drifter and a Vietnam veteran.
Meanwhile, Hieu’s family life is tested. Straining to hold form amid a police investigation into what happened in his classroom, Hieu seeks enough solitude to piece together the story of how he fled war and arrived in the US, how he came to be a father to three children in a bewildering, beloved new land—and how he’ll cope with a now uncertain future.
As their stories unfold in parallel, Hieu and Nate must confront the ways in which their pasts—each so linked to a mysterious far-off country—have left them isolated men.
With its vivid look at friendship and the challenges of cross-cultural communication, its poignant take on the legacy of Vietnam, and its Pacific Northwest setting, The Brightwood Stillness will remind readers of the best elements of A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain and Snow Falling on Cedars, while compelling them through a maze of love, betrayal, and finally, redemption.
The Brightwood Stillness is a novel I could not put down. On the surface, it is the lives of normal people in trying circumstances. Deeper, it is an uncannily perceptive exploration of male psychology… Pomeroy is a brave new voice capable of taking us beyond the clichés of war and its aftermath and into the secret heart of every man. This is simply the best novel I’ve read in a long time.
-Andrew X. Pham, author of Catfish and Mandala and The Eaves of Heaven
What an impressive debut—Mark Pomeroy writes well, but even better he creates people who are real and thorny, people whom the reader worries about and cares about and wants to yell at and chat with. Real people make for fine novels, and this is a real fine novel.
-Brian Doyle, author of Martin Marten and Mink River
Mark Pomeroy’s absorbing and humane first novel, The Brightwood Stillness … wonderfully portrays the complex Hieu and the “tenderly crafted amalgam” of Vietnam and America that is his house and his life … Nate Davis and Hieu Tran Nguyen are best friends and teachers at a North Portland public high school. Both are the kinds of teachers we all want for our kids: dedicated, fair, and sometimes inspired despite the roughness of the school and of some of the kids … Pomeroy paints a Portland that is a terrific corrective to the currently prevailing twee “Portlandia” image of tattooed baristas and organic greens. He reminds us that Portland is also a town where many families dine on bologna and corn chips. Where urban high schools struggle to serve kids already damaged by their own struggle to survive. And where cheap hotels on Sandy Boulevard house newly arrived immigrants, uncertain what to make of this strange and rainy place.
The Brightwood Stillness is a book meant to be read as a precursor to examining your own family, friends, and history.
-Portland Tribune, "Catching Up With Three Good Books"
This tale of parallel identity crises is a finely calibrated work of battles both internal and external. In exploring the underlying incidents that lead up to the present difficult crossroads, Pomeroy shows his characters as they peel away layers of self-deception. Long-suppressed memories and festering wrongs add to the complex story … The novel maintains a standard of compassion and careworn dignity.
The Brightwood Stillness is about choices, consequences and collateral damage. Yet even in its unflinching depiction of sorry aftermaths, it suggests a muted optimism and sketches a humble path of duties and reflections that might lead to finding one’s way. This novel is perceptive and humane – I recommend it.
-The Bellingham Herald, “First Novel Layered With Themes and Revelations”
I recommend this book to those who love to read literary novels dealing with the Vietnam War. The characters are well-developed and believable … Pomeroy does a good job letting the reader know about the problems that Vietnamese refugees faced when they came to the United States … He has done a lot of research to produce this book, and uses what he found well.
-The Veteran (Vietnam Veterans of America)