Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fiction Review: Miracle Creek

Ever since its release this spring, I've been hearing rave reviews of and "you must read this!" about the novel Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. Combining family and community drama, insights into living with chronic medical conditions, mystery, and an edge-of-your-seat courtroom thriller, this unique and beautifully written novel surpassed my high expectations and was excellent on audio.

Korean immigrants Young and Pak Yoo live in a small Virginia town and run an unusual family business: a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) chamber called Miracle Submarine. Though they share a small shack with their teen daughter, Mary, they want a better life for her and are working hard so that she can go to college. Patients with a wide variety of ailments come to Miracle Submarine for HBOT. Many of the patients are children, including several with autism and a teen girl with cerebral palsy, accompanied by their parents, though Matthew, a grown man getting HBOT for infertility, is also a patient. A small group do "double dives," coming to the Yoo's barn for twice-daily treatments, every morning and evening, and have therefore gotten to know each other well, as they sit together in the confined space every day. The novel opens in a local courtroom, one year after a horrible explosion of the Miracle Submarine killed and injured several people. Elizabeth, one of the mothers of a son with autism who died in the explosion, is on trial for starting the fire that caused the tragedy. The Yoo family and all the other double-dive patients are present in the courtroom, waiting to see what happens and what evidence will be presented. Did Elizabeth really do this horrible thing? Was it possibly another patient, a protestor of the treatments, or even one of the Yoo family who started the fire? Could it have been an accident or was this arson? The questions pile up as the trial begins.

This novel jumps right into the action immediately, with the trial beginning on page 1. The author was a trail lawyer herself, and it shows, as each day's witnesses and evidence slowly come together into a cohesive story. As with any good mystery, the reader is pulled right along, with almost every character taking their turn as the possible perpetrator of this horrific crime. As I listened to the audio book, which brought the drama to life, I guessed at and discarded one culprit after another. Narration of each chapter moves from one character to the next so that the reader gains insight into each of them and bit by bit, learns more details from that deadly day and the time leading up to it. They each carry secrets, and there are plenty of surprises in store, for the observers and lawyers at the trial, as well as for the readers. This unique novel has far more depth than a typical mystery/suspense story, though. It also digs deep into the challenges of immigrants trying to assimilate and the lives of disabled children and the parents (especially the mothers) who care for them, providing a glimpse into a secret world that most people don't even know exists. Since our family (myself and, at various times, both of my sons) has lived with chronic illnesses for almost two decades now, I immediately recognized and could relate to the experiences of these exhausted, overworked moms. I could tell that Kim herself must have had experience with chronic conditions in her own children, and sure enough, she discusses this in the interview with her editor at the end of the audio book. Miracle Creek is a stunning and suspenseful mystery, wrapped around a world most people never see, that will keep you guessing until its last pages.

368 pages, Sarah Crichton Books
Macmillan Audio

Listen to a sample of the audio book, with Young narrating in the first chapter, thinking back to the day of the explosion. You'll be hooked! You can also use this link to download the audio from Audible.

You can purchase Miracle Creek from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
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Or you can order Miracle Creek from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. Sounds very complicated but good. Thanks for the review.

    1. Very twisty but not too complicated to easily follow!

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this one; relating to a novel always helps a reader get deeper insights into the characters.

    1. Yes, definitely! Plus it's just a good twisty mystery :)