“Miracle Creek” by Angie Kim follows the story of a mother put on trial for murdering her autistic son, a Korean immigrant family and a couple with severe marital problems. Defined as a “courtroom drama,” it reminds me of episodes of Law and Order.
Originally from South Korea and moving to the states as a preteen, Kim studied at Stanford University and Harvard Law School and has practiced as a trial lawyer. “Miracle Creek” draws on her experiences as both a lawyer and an immigrant to form her characters. This made them more realistic just knowing they were similar to Kim’s experiences.
The story starts off on Tuesday, August 26, 2008, where Pak Yoo owns a “miracle submarine,” a chamber in a barn that people crawl into and receive pure oxygen from. The treatment is used by a variety of patients, but the book focuses on Henry and TJ, who both have autism; Rosa, who has cerebral palsy; their mothers; and Matt, who has a low sperm court and thinks this will help. Pak tells his wife, Young, to lie and say he was in the barn the entire time watching over patients while he was out doing an unknown errand. Young soon has to leave the barn as well, looking for batteries so that the kids can watch Barney from a portable DVD player. In the time Pak and Young are not in the barn, the miracle submarine explodes, killing Kitt (who is TJ’s mother) and Henry.
The novel then picks up again one year later with Henry’s mother, Elizabeth, who is on trial for setting the fire that caused the miracle submarine to explode. She was the only mother not in the submarine that night and had asked that Henry sits near the back to be with his friend TJ, closest to the oxygen tank. All the evidence is stacked up against her – that is, until people start lying on the stand and keeping their own secrets to protect themselves.
Kim alternates perspectives from Elizabeth; Matt and his wife Janine; Pak and his family; and Rosa’s mother, Teresa. The book is broken up into four sections (five if you count the prologue), with each section recounting a different day of the trial. People start to doubt that Elizabeth set the submarine on fire before secrets come out and unknown pieces come together. Over the course of 355 pages, the reader discovers whether or not Elizabeth started the fire.
While most books try to fit in a little bit of everything – mystery, romance, drama, comedy – Kim’s one objective is to find out who is to blame for the deaths of Kitt and Henry. I liked how there wasn’t much that took away from the plot because I was dying to know how everyone played into the tragedy, so much so that any other sub-plot would have been a nuisance.
Kim also has this way of writing that makes you challenge your beliefs and ideas and makes you think, “What would I do? What’s the right thing to do?” She mentions philosophy throughout the book, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence that by the end the reader is having a moral debate with themselves. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a drama or mystery because this is an absolute page-turner.