In the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine — a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives” with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.
Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night — trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges — as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. An addictive debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng, Miracle Creek is both a twisty page-turner and a deeply moving story about the way inconsequential lies and secrets can add up — with tragic consequences.
Author: Angie Kim | Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book! It's out April 16, 2019 (but FYI, it's also an April Book of the Month selection!).
Miracle Creek was a great read. An intriguing whodunnit with so many layers to the crime and to the entire cast of characters, it kept me guessing — suspecting, but not knowing — all the way up until the end. And it also broke my heart and showed real humanity throughout.
The story begins on the day of the explosion. Young Yoo is helping her husband, Pak, at the Miracle Submarine — a pressurized oxygen tank that delivers pure oxygen to those inside for a "dive." This is supposed to help the cells heal more quickly than they would on their own, and the Yoos' patients include those with autism, cerebral palsy, infertility, etc. But that day, everything spirals out of control, and the barn housing the Miracle Submarine explodes.
Fast forward to a year later, and the mother of one of the children who'd been inside at the time of the explosion is on trial. He and another child's mother had been killed, and the police believe his mother was tired of caring for a special-needs child, wanted her life back, and strategically placed a lit cigarette on top of a pile of kindling under the oxygen tube so that her child would die.
But as the trial begins, we see that it's probably not that simple. So many others — the doctor who'd been in the dive to cure his infertility and who'd had a secret friendship (half a wink wink here) with the Yoos' daughter Mary, the doctor's wife, another mother who'd been inside the tank, Young, Mary, Pak — all weave their narrative together until nobody (whether inside the story or just reading it) is sure of anything anymore. Who lit the fire? And why?
What emerges from this tangled web of information are a few themes:
Motherhood, in all its forms. Whether it's Young and Mary's complicated relationship, or the demand, competition, stress, guilt, and joy that comes with parenting a special-needs child, it's all in there.
Immigration. Mary and Young immigrated to the US from Korea when Mary was young, and Pak stayed behind. This splintered their family in more ways than one.
Racism. Everyone who either is or is related/married to someone from Korea is touched by racism in their experiences.
Honesty. With each other and ourselves.
The fact that every action has consequences, and every word you say affects the people around you in ways that you will never know. That everyone has an untold story, untold experiences. And that if any teeny, tiny thing happened in a different way, everything could be different.
This was really well done, a fantastic debut. Read it — and then let me know so we can talk through it.