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Summary and book reviews of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek

by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim X
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2020, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng about how far we'll go to protect our families - and our deepest secrets.

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie. He probably didn't even consider it a lie, and neither did I, at first ...

In rural 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. Both a compelling page-turner and an excavation of identity and the desire for connection, Miracle Creek is a brilliant, empathetic debut from an exciting new voice.

YOUNG YOO

SHE FELT LIKE A BRIDE walking into the courtroom. Certainly, her wedding was the last time—the only time—that a roomful of people had fallen silent and turned to stare as she entered. If it weren't for the variety in hair color and the snippets of whispers in English as she walked down the aisle—"Look, the owners," "The daughter was in a coma for months, poor thing," "He's paralyzed, so awful"—she might have thought she was still in Korea.

The small courtroom even looked like an old church, with creaky wooden pews on both sides of the aisle. She kept her head down, just as she had at her wedding twenty years ago; she wasn't usually the focus of attention, and it felt wrong. Modesty, blending in, invisibility: those were the virtues of wives, not notoriety and gaudiness. Wasn't that why brides wore veils—to protect them from stares, to mute the redness of their cheeks? She glanced to the sides. On the right, behind the prosecution, she glimpsed ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
In rural 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 treating conditions such as autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mys-teriously 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,...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about Miracle Creek.
You can see the full discussion here.


At the book's conclusion, do you think there is anyone who can be described as completely innocent? Do you think any good came of the tragedies?
I don’t believe that any character’s hands are completely clean. However, one person’s bad decision can set off a chain of terrible events through others that no one could have anticipated. - TLVZ721

Culture Clash
The clash of cultures is, I think, understated. For Young, her issues stem from the traditional roles, in Korean society within a family, clashing with what she feels is expected of her in America. Does she want to fit in or is it more important for ... - bluejay

Discuss how the theme of unravelling applies to this book.
Discuss how the theme of UNRAVELLING applies to this book. - bethb

Do you have relationships similar to Kitt and Elisabeth's? Do you think they can be long-lasting, or morph into a more satisfying friendship over time?
When my son was in high school, one of his close friends/teammates mother and I had a “friendship “ that I knew would not have existed if it weren’t for the boys. We were always going to games and school events together . I felt it was something I ... - darylb

Do you think Elizabeth should have stopped any or all of the therapies? Do you agree with the prosecution, that she was an abusive parent, either because of the treatments or the impatience she showed toward her son?
While we can all say one way or another what we might have done in another parent’s shoes, until we live it for ourselves, it’s only speculation and conjecture. Parents of special needs children are under unimaginable pressure from all angles on a ... - TLVZ721

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  • award image

    Edgar Awards
    2020

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

...Miracle Creek ultimately puts trust in readers to come to their own conclusions concerning hard questions—about racism, sexism, ableism, and justice. By showing us how little the truth may matter in a legal setting, Kim creates the eerie feeling that it's up to us to make our own decisions about the guilt or innocence of her characters, and that's no easy task. This is a book that demands an audience willing to approach it with care, and it deserves to find that audience...continued

Full Review (724 words).

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(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

New York Times
[A] fascinating study of the malleability of truth in the courtroom...The interior life of the characters gives Miracle Creek depth...The unique perspectives...aren’t matched by an equally daring narrative style. Kim is capable of striking descriptions, but for the most part, she doesn’t take any risks. Still, [it] is a brave novel that challenges assumptions of reality.

Washington Post
Kim’s real-life experience as a former litigator shines throughout the courtroom scenes. Her sharply drawn prosecutor hammers away at the evidence of Elizabeth’s guilt, while her defense attorney offers up alternative explanations for how the fire started. While the courtroom scenes and plot pyrotechnics are sure to delight readers of legal thrillers and mysteries, at its heart, Miracle Creek is a deeply moving story about parents and the lengths they will go for their children...readers will be riveted by the book’s genre-bending structure and superb pace.

Publishers Weekly
Kim, a former lawyer, clearly knows her stuff, and though the level of procedural detail is sometimes unwieldy, nonetheless what emerges is a masterfully plotted novel about the joys and pains of motherhood, the trick mirror nature of truth, and the unforgiving nature of justice.

Booklist
Powerful courtroom scenes invite comparisons to Scott Turow, but Kim's nuanced exploration of guilt, resentment, maternal love, and multifaceted justice may have stronger appeal for readers drawn to the Shakespearean tragedies in Chris Bohjalian's Midwives (1997) and William Landay's Defending Jacob (2012).

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Intricate plotting and courtroom theatrics, combined with moving insight into parenting special needs children and the psychology of immigrants, make this book both a learning experience and a page-turner. Should be huge.

Library Journal (starred review)
Kim effectively uses her background as a trial lawyer, skillfully crafting her narrative by interweaving the stories of her characters, each of whom speak for themselves as the story progresses toward a surprise ending. With touches of mystery, legal thriller, and character-driven storytelling, where nothing is ever quite as it seems, Kim's promising debut will certainly have readers looking forward to her next offering.

Author Blurb Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
I know this story but have never seen it in a novel...Kim has written a bold debut novel about science and immigration and the hopes and fears each engenders - unforgettable and true.

Author Blurb Laura Lippman, author of Sunburn
Miracle Creek is a marvel, a taut courtroom thriller that ultimately tells the most human story imaginable, a story of good intentions and reckless passions. Compelling, generous, at once empathetic and unsparing. I am wrecked, I am heartened and hopeful, which means, in short, that Miracle Creek is pretty much the perfect novel for these chaotic times in which we live.

Author Blurb Scott Turow, author of Testimony
Miracle Creek grabbed me hard right from the start. This is a terrific courtroom thriller, a sly whodunit that's beautifully written and also full of heart.

Author Blurb Janelle Brown, author of the New York Times bestseller Watch Me Disappear
Miracle Creek is an engrossing puzzle-box of a book: a twisty courtroom drama that also manages to be emotionally astute, culturally perceptive, and deeply empathetic. Angie Kim tackles hot-button subjects with a delicate touch, proving herself a master of both portraiture and storytelling. I loved this novel.

Reader Reviews

Courtney

Addictive
I was definitely not convinced that I would love this book, but I did nonetheless. I was in my 8th month of pregnancy with my first child and the themes of parent/child relationships and of mothers never feeling like their best was good enough were ...   Read More

RebeccaR

Riveting, Shocking, Disturbing - This book has it all.
Don't let the lengthy character list inside the front cover discourage you from reading this novel. The plot is truly unique and covers a wide range of emotions. Reviews which label this book as a courtroom drama simply do not do it justice; it would...   Read More

LinZ

This book stirred memories
Angie Kim's novel hooked me with the opening line! This is a murder mystery, but also it examines the life of families with special needs children as well as immigrant families in the US. Both play a major role in the story. As a mom of a daughter ...   Read More

Vivian H

Who To Blame
This is a rare court room drama that caused me to feel empathy for all of its flawed characters- immigrants trying to give a daughter a chance for success in America, teen rebellion, the cultural strictures for Korean women, the mothers seeking ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

HBOT: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

HBOT MultichamberHBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy), the medical treatment at the center of Miracle Creek, is a real treatment used for a variety of conditions. While undergoing HBOT, you breathe pure oxygen in an environment where the air pressure is much higher than normal. The higher pressure allows you to take in more oxygen, which can help your body heal faster from injuries, infections, and other conditions.

Records suggest that it was a British physician who first applied hyperbaric therapy in 1662. French physician Paul Bert later researched the science behind hyperbaric therapy and, in 1878, published his findings in a book he wrote, entitled La Pression Barométrique. In recent years, medical professionals all over the world have used ...

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