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.
Learn more: A Novelist's Journey: From Mount Hood to Hanoi
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 Oregonian (Read the full review)
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)