Miracle Creek starts with a trial – the trial of a mother accused of murdering her son. But, as we quickly learn, the trial and the alleged murder are not so simple.
In Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, we find ourselves confronted with many questions and eventual answers. It is a novel of family and relationships; differing cultures and practices; psychology and faith. It left us constantly wondering who was responsible for these crimes and how culpable everyone is.
Pak and Yoo Young own and operate a hyperbaric oxygen therapy tank (HBOT) in the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia. They are an immigrant family trying to run a business and give their teenage daughter a better life in America. They have endured hardships and separations in their marriage and life. But their HBOT business, called “Miracle Submarine,” is doing well and all are adjusting to life in this country.
What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
This is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard in scuba diving. According to the Mayo Clinic, this practice uses high air pressure levels in a small tube or enclosed space. The body takes in up to 3 times the amount of oxygen during normal air conditions; that oxygen is carried by the blood throughout the body. As Mayo writes, “This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.” The practice has been expanded for use in multiple medical conditions, as we see from the motley crew of users in the book.
One day, the tank explodes in a freak accident, leaving two patients dead and several injured. But it wasn’t an accident. Police investigators discover that the fire was deliberately set along a back wall of the facility, and the high levels of oxygen in the tank caused the explosion. Even worse, the defendant for this heinous crime is Elizabeth Ward, the mother of one of the patients and victims.
Miracle Creek’s voice bounces between the main characters, all of whom have a unique perspective on the crime. This crime is not as it appears.
We learn that Elizabeth was a mother to an autistic son, and she was willing to try anything and everything to help her son; others saw it as obsessive and unwilling to accept his autism. We meet Matt, a doctor
forced encouraged to try the treatment for low sperm motility. He develops a friendship with Mary, the Youngs’ daughter, that becomes more — in his mind. Yoo feels trapped in the lies that her husband and daughter are keeping and wants nothing more than to protect her family; her guilt and fears will lead her into a direction she did not think she was capable of. Mary is a lonely, intelligent teenager who is still adjusting to life in America. Like any teenager, her emotions cause her to do things that she comes to regret.
There were many twists to this courtroom mystery, and I never quite had the culprit figured out.
But perhaps the lesson is that no one person is ever fully culpable in a tragedy, at least in this case.
In Miracle Creek, Angie Kim shows us that every person’s actions have a reaction, and all of these tie together. Perhaps if one decision had been made differently, the outcome may have changed; perhaps not. It reminded me of another book we read, “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. That story is made up of actions and reactions; causes and effects. There is no simple solution or answer, and I felt the same way while reading “Miracle Creek.”
How does it all end? You will have to read “Miracle Creek” for yourself. One thing is for certain: appearances and people are not always as they seem.
Come back next month – we are reading “The Last Romantics” by Tara Conklin.
***Interested in joining our book club? Find us on Facebook under “MilMB Book Club” – it’s the easiest book club you will ever join!***