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.