“But that was the way life worked. Every human being was the result of a million different factors mixing together -- one of a million sperm arriving at the egg at exactly a certain time; even a millisecond off, and another entirely different person would result. Good things and bad--every friendship and romance formed, every accident, every illness--resulted from the conspiracy of hundreds of little things, in and of themselves inconsequential.”
A web of lies and deceit surrounds an explosive fire in an unconventional treatment facility in Angie Kim’s debut novel, Miracle Creek.
On a small HBOT facility in rural Virginia, owned and operated by Korean immigrants, Pak Yoo and his wife, Young, “hyperbaric oxygen therapy” is performed, which exposes people to high levels of oxygen in a pressurized, submarine-like chamber. While this may seen like a science fiction concept, HBOT is a real procedure, now offered in many private facilities as an experimental, off-label treatment for a wide range of conditions, including infertility, autism, cerebral palsy, and depression. But what seems like magical technology to Pak’s patients will soon change the lives of their forever, although not how they imagined.
The novel opens on a fateful day of power outages, protesters and miscommunication, when a fire breaks out near the oxygen tanks during a treatment session. Sealed inside the chamber are four patients and their caregivers. Two of them — Henry, an 8-year-old patient, and Kitt, the parent of another young patient — die in the fire. Investigators quickly rule the case as arson and Elizabeth Ward, Henry’s mother, as the prime suspect. Here begins a complicated, messy story of family, what a parent will do for their child, the stigma and struggle of having a child with special needs and the psychology of immigrants.
“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 . It was such a small thing, what he wanted.”
I don’t want to give much away for the way this courtroom drama unfolds is what makes Miracle Creek so engrossing. Kim delves into such timely yet intricate themes with great care and delicacy, from how the immigrant experience can take a toll on a family unit to the complex emotions a mother feels when trying to care for her autistic or disabled child. Ablism, racism, sexism, and the exploration of justice are also examined as each chapter reveals the perceptive of a different character.
Who really knows what happened? Did Elizabeth murder her son, the son whose disabilities have completely taken over her life? Could a mother actually take her own flesh and blood’s life? Who isn’t talking? Who is hiding the truth? With twists and turns that are a testament to Kim’s real life trial lawyer experience, Miracle Creek is an unforgettable story brimming with fear, love, empathy and mystery.
By Angie Kim
355 page. 2019