Miracle Creekby Published 16 Apr 2019
|Publisher||Sarah Crichton Books|
A literary courtroom drama about a Korean immigrant family and a young, single mother accused of murdering her eight-year-old autistic son
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 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.
"Miracle Creek" Reviews
Or perhaps the newspapers were right. Perhaps Elizabeth had been desperate to get rid of her son, and now that he was dead, she finally had a measure of peace. Perhaps she had been a monster all along.
I had to take some time away to really process this book. It wasn't easy. Miracle Creek absolutely ripped my heart out. It's a fantastic, utterly thrilling courtroom drama; it's a mystery, perhaps a murder mystery; and alongside these things, it's also a powerful character study that examines immigration, parenthood, grief, disability and caregiving.
The trial and the mystery are the compelling backdrop here, but this book explores so many things that it's hard to know where to begin describing it.
It's now a year since the night that took two lives and injured several others. Elizabeth, the single mother of one of the victims, is on trial for murder. On the night in question, she dropped her son off for his HBOT treatment and purportedly left to drink wine and smoke cigarettes nearby-- the same cigarettes responsible for the blast that killed her son while she was absent.
HBOT was new to me. It's a kind of oxygen treatment said to improve everything from male infertility to autism, and the author has personal experience with it. Elizabeth's son was on the autism spectrum and, as we soon see, the pressure of looking after him was pushing her to the edge. Whether it was enough for her to murder her son, though, is the real question. The more we learn, the less implausible it sounds.
Having a special-needs child didn’t just change you; it transmuted you, transported you to a parallel world with an altered gravitational axis.
But there are many other characters in this book and they all play an important role. The third person narration moves through each of their perspectives, filling in the night in question, piece by piece. Each person is fleshed-out and flawed. Kim explores them all in depth, creating so many intimate portraits that all come together to form a bigger picture.
The HBOT facility was started by Pak and Young Yoo. As Korean immigrants, they have had to struggle with the dismissal of their business as silly "Eastern medicine", and with being forced apart when Young and their daughter first came to the United States without Pak. I was especially moved by the discussions about language barriers. Pak is a smart and eloquent man in his native language, but he suffers the indignity of appearing unintelligent in his broken, accented English:
Pak Yoo was a different person in English than in Korean. In a way, he supposed, it was inevitable for immigrants to become child versions of themselves, stripped of their verbal fluency and, with it, a layer of their competence and maturity.
Another interesting discussion was that about the "fetishization" of Asian women. Janine really struggles with her feelings about it. On the one hand, she thinks it is a potential problem, but she also wonders why men who have a preference for blondes do not get accused of having a “fetish”. Why, she wonders, are Asian women portrayed as something perverse?
I think I could write my own book about all the avenues this fascinating book goes down. I haven't even said anything about the in-depth look at parenting and parental sacrifice. But I should stop before this review becomes ridiculously long.
The final way I will summarize Miracle Creek is that it's a book about so many interesting characters who all want the best for their family, but grind themselves into the ground in the process - Elizabeth driven to the edge by parenting an autistic child, Pak the lonely “goose father” who wants the best for his family, Young who worked such long hours that she alienated her daughter, and there are others too.
I found it such a beautiful and sad literary mystery.
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Long ... but no spoilers!!!!
Great Balls of FIRE....
...literally and figuratively...
From the first sentence, the reader is hooked.
I am completely jubilant about this book....
with a fascinating medical exploration of Hyerbaric oxygen therapy - a treatment used for decompression sickness of scuba diving hazards - but is also used to treat a variety of medical conditions, such is the case in this story.
Medical evidence is sufficient in treating autism, Bell’s palsy, infertility, and a long list of other diseases.
Parents brought their children with special needs to the oxygen tank.
Each session (the dives)were an hour long.
Pak Yoo, Korean immigrant,
sent his wife, Young, and their daughter, Mary to live with a host family in Baltimore. Pak wanted his daughter to get an American education.
Young had to work at a run-down supermarket with bulletproof doors ( gangs at night in the area), 7 days a week. Young worked like a slave in exchange for the host family ( the Kangs), paying for Mary’s American education.
In the meantime, it took another 4 years until Pak joined his wife and daughter in the Baltimore.
Pak opened his Hyperbaric oxygen therapy here in the states. His wife, Young and their daughter, Mary were clearly not happy - about their life in America.
I couldn’t blame them.
Their daily lives were compromised severely. Pak made all the final decisions in that family.
I personally wanted to kick him in the balls!
Pak said HBOT was popular with Asian acupuncture clients. The Asian community in Japan and Korea had wellness centers with infrared saunas and HBOT
He had years of experience in Seoul
Pak had been in Acupuncturist for 30 years..
But gave it up in the states for his oxygen wellness therapy.
Pak and Young’s daughter, Mary was frustrated -lonely and - angry for numerous reasons. Her life as a teenager in the states was completely jeopardized due to their parents choices.
Mary questioned why she needed to get an American education when the math classes in Korea were far superior. In fact all of the education was more advance than in the states. So.. I wondered about their argument as to why they came to America myself.
After the explosion -
Mary’s personality flipped from a hot tempered talkative girl to a detached mute facsimile of her daughter”.
Doctors diagnosed Mary with posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD.
She missed taking her SAT classes that day.... and everything about her life went from worse to worse.
“Miracle Submarine”, ( the oxygen chamber is shaped like a submarine), exploded at 8:25pm on August 26th, 2008, starting an uncontrollable fire. Pak, the owner lied big time that night. His wife was victim to her husband’s lie.
6 people were inside the Submarine chamber.
3 people were in the immediate area.
4 were severely injured— hospitalized for months, paralyzed limbs amputated.
Outside the treatment center, on the night of the tragic event, protesters gathered: angry - wanting to close down the Submarine oxygen business. Maybe- but doubtful - that one of the prosecutors were the cause of the explosion.
I started to think ‘many’ people were to blame - not just one person.
THIS STORY IS GRIPPING ... and got inside my head.
Even though I felt I knew the number 1 culprit- ( not saying if I was right or not)....
I kept thinking about the pros and cons of oxygen medical treatments. The medical fiction was equally as interesting to me as the page turning courtroom drama.
A treatment center opened just 2 miles from my house over a year ago.
Expensive as hell!!!
I’ve been curious about the BIG TANK in our neighborhood- but it was this book that ‘really’ piqued my interest.
Something went VERY WONG the night of the explosion in Miracle Creek.
Accident or intentional?
And what’s the miracle?
A year after the explosion
....a terrific courtroom case began.
Elizabeth Ward was charged with arson, battery, attempted murder. Her own son died.
Elizabeth’s defense attorney, Shannon Haug....was stellar during the courtroom trial. She didn’t believe Elizabeth was guilty. Neither did I...
but Elizabeth and everyone had reason to want to explode the treatment center. Everyone was hiding something.
The town “Miracle Creek” could have been “Liars Creek”. A community of liars.
Abraham Patterley the prosecutor...wasn’t a fan of Shannon Haug -and vice versa. (Making the courtroom drama fun for our reading).
Steve Pierson, an arson specialists and witness verified that the fire started outside the chamber....and Elizabeth ‘was’ outside the chamber the night of the explosion.
Elizabeth’s son, Henry, who had autism was one of the victims killed while in the
“Miracle Submarine” chamber. Doesn’t seem quite like a miracle when people are killed and injured.
But did this mother really cause the fire explosion...
that killed her own child?
We got a clear look
at Elizabeth’s daily demands for her son.
Elizabeth was “Henry-centric”. No time left over for friends and socializing.
“During the day, Elizabeth drove Henry to seven types of therapy—speech, occupational, physical, auditory processing (Tomatis), social skills (RDI), vision processing, neurofeedback—and, between those, roamed holistic/organic stores for
peanut/gluten/casein/dairy/fish/egg-free foods. At night she prepared Henry’s foods and supplements and went on autism treatment boards such as HBOTkids and AutismDoctorMoms”.
Sounds like a committed mother - yet Elizabeth was THE ACCUSED.
Or?? who else was to blame?
The two dead victims were Kim Kozlowski ( the defendant’s long time friend), and Henry Ward, the defendant’s own 8 year old son.
I was totally intrigued with this book! I liked everything about it...
...the medical issues
...the top notch courtroom drama,
...the immigration story - (from Korea to the United States).
4 trial days..
We hear from a full cast of witnesses:
....Matt Thompson was the first witness. A medical doctor - Caucasian - married to Janine Cho - Asian -( also a medical doctor/ internist).
Matt had fingers amputated from being in the chamber during the fire that night in August 2008.
PakYoo, owner of HBOT
Young Yoo ( wife of Pak)
Elizabeth Ward, ( the accused) ... and once married to Victor
Janine Cho, ( Matt’s wife)
Teresa ... mother of Rosa, a teen daughter with cerebral palsy, due to an illness.
Author Angie Kim did an outstanding job with this novel. As a preteen she moved from Seoul, Korea to the suburbs of Baltimore.
She attended University and Harvard Law school.
This was a phenomenal enjoyable debut novel.
The cast is large - but was very easy for me to keep track of everyone. LOVE THIS BOOK!!!
This was the BEST courtroom drama I’ve read since “Defending Jacob”...by William Landry.
Plus this novel had added enrichment topics: medical fiction and immigration.
One of my FAVORITES!!!
Thank you Farrar, Straus, Giroux, Netgalley, and Angie Kim
Review to follow close to the publication date.
It took five years for Pak Yoo to save enough money for a family visa. He finally could emigrate from Korea to the United States following wife, Young and daughter, Mary who were living with a very demanding host family. Moving to Miracle Creek, Virginia, Pak now owned and operated The Miracle Submarine, a 100% pressurized oxygen chamber designed to heal damaged cells through deep penetration of oxygen during sixty minute "dives". As a controversial, experimental treatment, protesters felt that Pak's clients were "guinea pigs". To the parents of children with autism, cerebral palsy and other health issues as well as adults with fertility issues, the Miracle Submarine offered hope, especially to the "double dive" clients who signed up for twice daily treatments for forty days.
This hyperbaric therapy (HBOT) clientele included Matt, a doctor. Matt's in-laws viewed him as having a "defect". Wife Janine insisted on HBOT treatments for his infertility. Elizabeth Ward's devotion to eight year old autistic son Henry could be considered to be "Puppeteer Parenting". Henry was enrolled in numerous therapies throughout the day. Kitt was the mother of TJ, eight years old, autistic and non-verbal. Rosa was a sixteen year old teenager with cerebral palsy. Teresa, Rosa's mother was thrilled that Rosa could now say "mama". Contrast that with Elizabeth's expectations for Henry!
The night dive on August 26, 2008 was fraught with difficulties. Protesters caused a delay in the start time of the dive, the AC and lights were not working and the DVD stopped mid-song. The back oxygen tank then exploded. Elizabeth's son, Henry and TJ's mother, Kitt were killed. Four others were seriously injured. Why is it that Elizabeth chose not to dive with Henry that evening asking Kitt to keep an eye on him? According to the accident reconstruction expert, the fire started outside the chamber, under the oxygen tubing. Whose cigarette and matches started the blaze?
Elizabeth Ward was on trial for the murder of son, Henry. She had mentioned that life would be easier if she wasn't a round-the -clock caregiver. Was this a recipe for murder? The ensuing court trial was very engrossing. Defense lawyer Shannon Haug was determined to deflect the blame. Who might stand to gain from Elizabeth's conviction? Pak and Young want to collect the insurance money from the fire and jump start their lives. "The story Pak has invented to protect them had, with time and repetition, become the truth...". Pak and Young were not the only ones speaking half truths. A perfect storm of lies and deception was created that could affect the outcome of the case.
"Miracle Creek" by Angie Kim is an absolutely riveting read. Each primary/secondary character was thoroughly fleshed out. This reader was able to sympathize with Mary Yoo's feelings of isolation and loneliness as a teenage immigrant. The exclusion felt by the parents of special needs children and the need of support from an insular community of parents with similar experiences cannot be understated. The courtroom trial was fascinating, the twists and turns made this reader continue to question Elizabeth's culpability. "Miracle Creek" by Angie Kim is a debut novel of the finest caliber. A must read!
Thank you Sarah Crichton Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "Miracle Creek".
So. Good. You must all get this book when it comes out. And then discuss it with me.
I was riveted all the way through this tragic and tightly woven courtroom drama. I can't say I've ever seen a book that blends legal intrigue and character development so seamlessly. I am so hoping the author will be up for a Skype with my library's book group - MIRACLE CREEK is sure to be a favorite! I'm rooting for a LibraryReads pick!