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Miracle Creek is a shocking examination of parenthood, marriage, immigration, and care-giving, tucked inside a literary courtroom mystery.
Angie Kim does an amazing job at balancing multiple perspectives without bogging readers down in legal drama. Instead, Kim uses the trial at the center of the story to reveal each character's secret truths - and let me tell you, they will shock you and make you wonder how many people walk around with secrets to tell.
The book opens a year after the incident that killed two people. Elizabeth Ward is on trial for murder after she allegedly dropped her son off for his HBOT treatment and went down to the creek nearby to have a drink of wine and smoke cigarettes - the same cigarettes that are said to have been used to start the fire at the oxygen tanks at Miracle Submarine.
Pak and Young Yoo own the Miracle Submarine, which provides hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) as a treatment for a variety of health issues, including autism and infertility. Both Yoos and their daughter, Mary, are present in the courtroom. Pak and Mary suffered injuries as a result of the explosion and subsequent fire.
The setting is tense as Kim immediately reveals evidence of perjury (no spoilers, I promise!). As witnesses take the stand, she uses each character to reveal their backstory and what led them to pursue HBOT treatment and how they came to be present at Miracle Submarine that day. Each chapter is just long enough to get your heart racing before it ends and you're taken back to the courtroom, attempting to line up questioning with the truth each character's past just revealed.
As the owners of the Miracle Submarine, Pak and Young are under a microscope as the defense attempts to turn the reasonable doubt of the jury toward questioning their culpability. With each turn of the defense, we learn more about the lives of both characters and their daughter. Young and Mary arrived to the United States without Pak and lived with a host family. Mary resented her mother who began working long hours, unable to drive home to spend time with her daughter after school. Moving to the United States changed the dynamics of their relationship, all of which was out of Young's control. Meanwhile, Pak was left a "goose father" in Korea - a man without his family.
As the story moves on, the reader learns about the mothers of the special needs children undergoing a suite of treatments in addition to the "double dives" at Miracle Submarine. Elizabeth's son, Henry, was autistic and on a strict, regimented diet and treatment schedule that left them almost no time to relax or enjoy one another's company. This regimentation left Elizabeth exhausted but hyper-focused on any and all of Henry's behaviors. As the prosecution pursues their case against Elizabeth, the reader learns more about her early days dealing with Henry's autism and the alienation she felt from other new mothers with children who weren't developmentally different.
The story has many moving parts, yet the suite of characters was never overwhelming or unnecessary. This story was a brutally honest look at how the pressures of being the best parent and providing the very best everything for your child can lead to unintended consequences.
If you're looking for a literary dive into parenthood - from caregiving to the immigrant experience - wrapped in a murder mystery, then you should definitely pick up this book.
This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info
Have you read Miracle Creek? Will you be adding it to your TBR? Let me know in the comments!