Miracle Creek

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

I’m going to start by telling you that the hype and buzz surrounding this book is totally warranted, I had very high expectations after hearing from some of my most trusted friends that this was an incredible book and it exceeded them by a mile. The fact that this is a debut blows my mind, you know those rare debuts that take the literary world by storm? This is that book, it’s going to be huge and will be an extremely popular choice for book clubs for years to come, mark my words.

I don’t have the best track record with literary mysteries, I’ve only seriously enjoyed a couple but this was the best one I’ve ever read, hands down. Sometimes literary fiction in general feels like it’s trying too hard for me, all the flowery descriptions and ramblings tend to make my eyes glaze over but Kim wrote in a literary style that was pure magic. From the incredibly well crafted characters to the descriptions of the town of Miracle Creek and even to the retelling of the events of a tragedy through the eyes of several individuals, I was mesmerized, it was a totally magical reading experience.
You hear from several key people who were present the day of the accident and the story unfolds over the course of four days of trial testimony. Seeing how everyone involved had such different experiences and outlooks about not only the day in question, but also their memories from the months leading up to the event were endlessly fascinating as well. Choices played a huge role here too, how even the smallest, most seemingly innocuous decisions can have a huge impact was another thing that kept me riveted. The idea that a mundane day and a series of basic everyday choices can have consequences that add up to something no one ever saw coming still gives me the chills.

Any book with a character that has a special needs child draws me in, no matter what the subject matter, but when you have a group of parents of special needs kids and their struggles are so painfully honest and relatable, I’m a mess. This is the second book I’ve read this year that deals directly with ASD and also the second that portrays the daily life as a caretaker and advocate in such an accurate manner that I’m totally shook. Kim tapped into some of my innermost thoughts and fears about my own son, the dark and ugly fleeting things that fly through my head from time to time that once again, I felt seen, exposed even. It’s a powerful feeling making this already unforgettable book one that has earned its place as one of my favorite books of all time.

I’ll stop gabbing because we could be here all week if I don’t, but I recommend this one to everyone. If you like to read, add this one to your TBR. It’s incredible and not to be missed.

Miracle Creek in three words: Memorable, Vivid and Intoxicating
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Miracle Creek is a finely layered story that goes beyond the plot details - a courtroom drama that also shows how little of the full picture we actually get in court. 

Pak and Young are a couple running a business called Miracle Submarine - a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients use for alternative medicine treatments. 

Right at the start, there is an explosion that kills two people - and then we jump to a year later and the trial that is occurring to determine who caused the explosion. 

The story unravels from many different viewpoints and we learn what was happening with the various characters leading up to the explosion and since it happened. 

It’s a great story and it was beautifully written but for some reason I wasn’t totally drawn into it. I think it may have been a case of reading it at the wrong time or my expectations from all of the buzz around it. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my advance review copy in exchange for my honest review.
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This book was one intriguing read!  The way this author was able to weave this story together and give us little bits and pieces paced over time was pretty amazing.  I love when a book explores the legal and emotional side of an event and this one delivered.  I wavered for a long time between 4 and five stars on this one so I think I am landing on a 4.5.  There were just a couple parts that I found a little disturbing and thought they could have been told in a different way.  Also, the conclusion of one character just felt wrong to me.  I would 100% pick up another book by this author.  To think that she could tell an almost flawless story as a debut work is incredible!
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The Yoo family—Pak, Young, and their daughter Mary, have pinned all their American hopes and all their money on their new business. It’s a hyperbaric chamber that is supposed to help cure or improve all kinds of medical issues. Angie Kim’s new novel, Miracle Creek, begins while a session is in progress. In the chamber are two children with severe autism, one parent, and Matt, a man suffering from low sperm motility, which his wife believes can be helped by the high doses of pure oxygen pumped into the chamber. What begins as a normal treatment goes terribly wrong when the oxygen tanks explode, sending flames into the locked chamber. One boy dies, as does a parent. Matt loses fingers and Pak is paralyzed. How could this have happened and who is responsible?

This shocking opening scene also lets readers in on a lie. Pak is the licensed operator for the Miracle Submarine (as they call the hyperbaric chamber). No one else is supposed to manage things during a session. But that’s not the case at the time of the incident. This is just the first of the many lies that make Miracle Creek propulsive and hypnotic reading. But does this mean Pak is on trial? No. Elizabeth, the parent of Henry, the boy who died, is found to have planned the explosion in order to kill her son and free herself from a life in service to him that has become unbearable.

After the opening scene the novel segues immediately into the trial taking place a year later. In the same way that the defense and prosecution call witnesses, Kim lines up her characters and lets them testify to what happened not only that day, but in the days and even months before. Each has a lot of story to share, all of which they believe to be the absolute truth and none of which turns out to be the case. For every truth uncovered another lie remains hidden.

As each character tells their side of the story, Kim carefully teases out details in their lives that, on the surface, may seem unimportant or unrelated, but that later assume greater significance. There are the four years when Pak stayed in South Korea while Young and Mary lived in difficult circumstances in the U.S. Matt’s wife’s obsessive goal in adding a baby to her list of achievements. Elizabeth’s relationship, not just with her son, but with the other women in the autism community. The more you learn, the less you know. Kim heightens the tension by ending each chapter with another small twist. This could feel like manipulation, but in Kim’s hands, is irresistible.

There was a point, at about ¾ of the way through the novel, when I had a moment of feeling as Kim was reaching too far in expanding the list of suspects, but it quickly faded. It’s hard to believe this is a debut—she’s that good. Her sense of timing and character development makes Miracle Creek standout reading whether you’re a fan of mysteries, family drama, or social issues.
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Miracle Creek by Angie Kim is a well-written novel that is a mystery and much more. Two people die and several are injured due to a fire and explosion at the "Miracle Submarine," a controversial treatment (extended exposure to high oxygen levels) for people with autism and other various medical issues. The author uses multiple narrators and aptly weaves the stories of the patients and their families with the history of the Korean immigrants (Pak Yoo, his wife, Young and daughter, Mary) who run the center. In addition, Kim introduces the courtroom setting where the mother (Elizabeth) of one of the children (Henry) is tried for intentionally setting the fire which killed her own son. 

There is certainly plenty of angst and guilt spread around: parents who experience a range of feelings towards their children, conflicts between spouses, questions of ethics for the lawyers, and actions by protesters who debate the medical efficacy of this treatment.  As the reader hurtles from one lie to another and flips back and forth between suspicion and empathy for possible perpetrators, Kim propels the story forward to its surprising conclusion. Miracle Creek was chosen as a LibraryReads selection for April and received starred reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal. An excellent choice for book groups.
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I received a review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

I requested Miracle Creek on a whim, due to the blurb focusing on the courtroom drama aspect of the story, which, alas, proved to be only minor in the grand scheme of things: neither the prosecutor nor the defense are fully realised characters, with the story instead focusing on the interiority of the characters on and attending the trial taking place a year after a fire in a hyperbaric chamber ("submarine") resulted in the deaths of some of the patients and caretakers, including Henry, being "treated" for autism, and caused severe injuries to several more people. Over the course of the story, we learn more and more about the characters and the skeletons in their closets - abuse, betrayal and disloyalty - as well as the hardships they've endured. 

This is very much a story in the vein of Lianne Moriarty or (I think, from what I've heard) Celeste Ng. There's a group of people (most of them parents) and they're all hiding secrets from each other. The narration jumps from one 3rd person POV to another while attempting to maintain mystery and deliver plot twists, which has its uses; however, I was increasingly frustrated with the need to mislead the readers. When yet another character seems to "confess" in their internal monologue, only for their guilt to be revealed as misplaced, the desire to find out the truth, a propelling force for a book like this, can become substituted with frustration. Ultimately, I found the solution unsatisfying and some of the final plot twists made only a limited amount of narrative sense. 

In addition, the subject matter, while reportedly close to the author's own life, makes for a less than pleasant reading. This can be a tough balancing act for a mystery - an uncanny valley of sorts, making the evil interesting and terrible enough but not too real. This book seems to want to both address real, significant issues and to be a light read, and it is not strong enough to manage that. In short, while I found the realism of issues related to immigration and parenting interesting enough, aspects concerning disability felt at times didactic, at times problematic or incomplete, and overall, too depressing to result in light reading.

All the same, I'm sure some readers will enjoy the central mystery; I found the middle part to be quite gripping, even if the ending and the beginning dragged a little.
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This beautifully written book satisfies on so many levels, from an immigrant experience to a whodunnit to an exploration of what it means to have a special needs child.  The challenges and strong emotions.  The author manages to capture so much and incorporates her own experience that adds richness and gives all a three dimensional quality.
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Many of my reading friends rated this novel with a resounding five stars and, while I was able to stay engaged throughout the novel and definitely felt eager to find out how the mystery would conclude, I have to admit that there are times when I struggle to identify with stories that are so strongly positioned within the context of parenting. Having said that, Angie Kim is a brilliantly talented writer and storyteller; I love her inclusion of children with special needs, especially an autistic child and the unique challenges of his single mother. While there is certainly a mystery to solve, by the end it feels more like a tragedy; the way in which Kim weaves these two elements together is absolutely stunning and Miracle Creek is definitely worth the high praise it has received.
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Pak Yoo, his wife Young and their teenaged daughter Mary are immigrants from South Korea who now live in Miracle Creek, Virginia.  The family business is the operation of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber (nicknamed the miracle submarine) that is purported to cure or treat various medical conditions, including autism and infertility. The submarine is big enough to treat multiple people at a time, and during one such treatment session a fire breaks out, killing 2 people and injuring several others. The mother of one of the victims is arrested and put on trial for arson and murder. The title of this book used to be Miracle Submarine and I wish they had kept that title since it is more descriptive. 

This book is described as a courtroom drama, which is misleading because very little of it takes place in a courtroom. That’s too bad, because the author is a former trial lawyer and I would have preferred more legal wrangling. Instead, we get a lot of unpleasant people who are incapable of telling the truth.  By the end of the book I wanted them all to be in prison. The book is mostly about competitive mothering, but it also works in accusations of child abuse and infidelity. There are a lot of potential suspects for the arson and I kept reading to find out who did it, but I wasn’t crazy about the book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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I adored this book. Quite a few times reading it on the tube on my commute, I'd look up to find we were still several stations away from my stop and be relieved I still had time to read it. It works brilliantly as a mystery, but the best thing about it is that every character is so perfectly rounded. There was one scene in which Elizabeth and Kitt have an argument, and the genius of it was that you could absolutely see both of their (opposing) points, knew exactly why they were so passionate about asserting their opinions to each other and perfectly understood how they could never understand each other. It was so skilfully done, and something I've seen in real life but never so elegantly expressed in literature—especially with the chapter coming from one character's third-person perspective.

Miracle Creek touches on so many issues—parental sacrifice in particular is represented through Elizabeth, Kitt and Theresa's disabled children but also through Pak and Young's immigrating to provide a better life for Mary—but it's also just incredibly readable and entertaining. The courtroom scenes, particuarly with Shannon prosecuting, were riveting.

My only one thing—and it really is just one thing—is that I couldn't help thinking this book's working title was Miracle Submarine. In fact, within the context of the book, one character points out what a better name Miracle Submarine is than Miracle Creek! Maybe the publisher felt Miracle Submarine sounded a bit too whacky, but honestly, a literary book called Miracle Submarine would get snatched off the shelves (by me)
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When an explosion and fire kill two people in the Miracle Submarine treatment device, the whole town is rocked. Pak and Young Yoo have moved to America from Korea with their teen daughter Mary and have started the treatment center to give a good life to their daughter. Matt, a doctor himself, is having treatment for sterility issues. He is the only adult along with three children suffering from handicaps of their own. The Miracle Submarine is a hyperbaric chamber but large enough for the four to sit in. My father-in-law was put in one because of open wounds on his leg due to arthritis. (I could write a book about his suffering alone) It was a small one that made me claustrophobic just looking at so imagining one on a larger scale was very interesting to me. As they sit in their session, things start to go quite off course. The power goes out, the video stops, causing one of the kids to take off his helmet and start banging his head. When Young, who was left alone, runs to get batteries, she comes back to an explosion and fire.

The story takes us into the courtroom as Elizabeth Ward (my daughter’s name so that was a bit distracting for me) is charged with the murder of her son and her friend, the mother of the other boy. Things are not what they seem. There is so much going on in this book, SO much. Everyone has secret, upon, secret, upon secret, one more devastating than the other.  By the time we find out how the fire started, I was emotionally exhausted.

This is so wonderfully written. To be able to get into the minds and hearts of so many characters perfectly is a gift. I really felt like I knew and understood each one’s motives, skewed as they may have been. I did not feel as if there was any villain or any hero. These were humans, flaws and all. I was left in tears. It hit every motherly instinct in me.

Miracle Creek is an incredible first novel and if this is the beginning, I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Thanks to the generosity of Netgalley and Farrar-Straus and Giroux for a copy of this wonderful book.
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This review appeared in my professional newsletter, Displacement Blues. A different version of this review was placed as an Editors' Pick on the web site of a major bookseller.

Now this is a strange, but strangely compelling book. It’s not quite a courtroom procedural, although it is told over the course of several days of a murder trial. It isn’t exactly a comedy of manners, although it has elements of how to navigate life in America from two distinct demographics: Fairly recent immigrants from Korea, and mothers of disabled children. The narrative perspective shifts between five different characters, all of whom have some motive to commit a crime that leads to an explosion that kills two people, one of them a child. The book looks at several uncomfortable topics aside from the crime itself: unorthodox medical treatments, the idea that autism is a state of being that some people want to cure and some people want to honor, and the question of what a successful immigrant looks like. The way the author shifts perspective while narrating the criminal trial, incorporating flashbacks and real-time observations of the case from each successive character, is an impressive structural feat that underscores the moral relativity each of the characters grapples with.
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Loved this book! I was surprised so many times and thought many people were guilty before it was over. What a great story about parenting, special needs children, loyalty, and love. I will definitely be watching for more from this author. Well done!
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It's so hard to believe this is Angie's debut novel.  I LOVED this story so much!  Angie managed to write a thriller and at the same time have me so invested in the relationships of all the main characters.  There was a mother/daughter relationship which I feel was just so crucial to this story.  But, she also gave us an amazing story about husbands and wives which centered on trust and love.  The cover is amazing and the story is even better!!
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I was disappointed by this book. I had high hopes. Like the author, I am a trained trial attorney. I think that maybe my background led me to want more from this book than it was able to give. The character development was a bit lacking, and some of the trial and legal scenes weren’t accurate.

However, the weighty subject matter does give way to depiction of a really interesting dilemma of: how far would you go to protect your child and what does that protection look like to you? This resonated with me. Ultimately I thought the book had a good message and a satisfying ending, but it was quite slow.
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Miracle Submarine offers alternative therapies for a range of chronic conditions. But is the family who runs it to be trusted? Are the patients? We know there has been a terrible accident, 1 parent and a child dead. The mother of the dead boy is on trial for his murder in what seems to be such a clear-cut case. And yet, as the story unfolds bouncing from character to character, it becomes more and more difficult to say who's to blame.
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My Thoughts: Everyone has been buzzing about Angie Kim’s remarkable debut, Miracle Creek. It’s not often that an author can plot her story in a completely unique situation, but Kim did just that. The entire idea of this therapeutic submarine device is something few readers would have heard of and yet, Kim built an intriguing mystery around such a device and the people both operating and using it. When a fiery explosion at a rural facility kills two and injures others, everything and everyone associated with the “Miracle Submarine” comes into question.

I always love a book told from many perspectives and Miracle Creek did that beautifully. We hear from the three members of the Yoo family, operators of the device, Matt and Theresa, clients, from Elizabeth who lost her son in the fire and has herself become the chief suspect, and many more. The book centers around the trial of Elizabeth Ward, charged with causing the explosion in theory to end the drudgery of caring for her special needs son. But, as the courtroom drama unfolds, Kim takes the reader back in time and bit by bit unveils tiny facts that keep the reader constantly guessing as to what really happened. I liked this book very much, yet occasionally felt it went too deep into backstory that didn’t really matter. Still, if you’re a fan of courtroom dramas Miracle Creek is a must read! Grade: B+

Note: I received a copy of this book from Sarah Crichton Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest review.
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My reading experience can be divided in two phases: 1st phases was "I MUST read this book because I have to review it", 2nd phase was "OMG this book is amazing, I can't stop reading".
As a matter of fact I had to stop reading from time to time but I was back as soon as I could.
That said I can start listing a long series of adjectives or description but at the end of the day there's just one thing: this is an amazing book and you have to read to understand the beauty and how thought provoking it can be.
The plot, the style of writing, the cast of characters, the different POV: everything is very good and well written.
I liked how the author faces different social issues without turning this book into an essay or something boring.
A very good book, I will surely read others by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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I loved this book! This is a fascinating murder mystery/courtroom drama/immigrant story that is unlike any other I have read. Along with being a riveting page-turner the author explores tough questions that have no easy answers. 

The book opens with an explosion in a hyperbaric chamber, the so-called “Miracle Submarine”, a medical treatment used in the hope of a cure for conditions ranging from autism to infertility. The resulting fire took the life of two people: an 8-year-old boy with autism, and the young mother of one of the patients. Several others were left with devastating injuries. 

Elizabeth, the mother of the young boy who died, is charged with wanting her son dead and orchestrating his murder.  Is Elizabeth guilty, or, as the defense suggests, is someone else the guilty party? Told from alternating perspectives, there are little lies, big lies, and lies of omission. Everybody is hiding something and everyone has a possible motive for the crime.

The courtroom drama was riveting. Depending on which piece of evidence is explored, the suspicion leans strongly toward one person or another. No one has the full picture but each reveal draws us closer to the truth and keeps the reader guessing. 

I think one of the strengths of this book is allowing the reader a peek into the minds and hearts of  parents of disabled children. Parenting is a tough job, even more so when faced with the overwhelming exhaustion, grief, and fear of parenting a child with special needs, and the worry of what will happen to your child when they outlive you. The dynamics of the group of mothers who  have children with varying degrees of autism was especially interesting. 

Despite a great love for your child, shameful, but all-too-human, thoughts can creep in.  Thoughts that could never be voiced out loud to anyone. I hope this book gives parents in similar circumstances reassurance and validation that they aren’t awful people, just flawed humans. Like all of us. 

The immigrant experience is also explored, specifically the clashes between the old ways and the new, and the sacrifices immigrant parents make for their children, which don’t always lead to the expected outcome. 

The author is Korean-American, a trial lawyer, and has a child who received hyperbaric treatments for a health condition. She writes with authenticity based on personal experience. This is an amazing debut and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

Highly recommended for fans of thoughtful character-driven mystery/courtroom dramas.  For those in a book club this would be an excellent pick. 

**I received a free copy of the book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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It's hard to find something to say about a book that's already received so much buzz and high praise.

Miracle Creek is a courtroom drama following the explosion of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber in Miracle Creek, Virginia.  The "miracle submarine" was a hyperbaric chamber that allowed for multiple individuals to sit inside the vessel for treatment at the same time.  Although the "miracle submarine" is touted to help with ailments, such as autism and infertility, it is considered to a controversial treatment.   

Miracle Creek follows alternating chapters of individuals who are directly affected by the explosion.  Matt is a patient who was injured during the explosion and his wife is also a stakeholder in the "miracle submarine".  Pak Yoo owned and operated the treatment along with his wife, Young, and his teenage daughter, Mary.  Readers are also given points of view from the accused and other parents who used this treatment for their children.  As with most courtroom dramas, not everything is what it seems.  

Although I found the outcome predictable I did enjoy Angie Kim's writing style.  It's also interesting to hear Kim's inspiration for writing this novel.  I look forward to seeing what Kim writes next.  Thank you to Netgalley and FSG for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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