Rating: 4 / 5
Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a suspenseful and multi-faceted story of arson and murder in a quiet Virginia town.
The Yoo family immigrated to America from Korea for a better life for their daughter. That is now up in flames, along with their family business – a pressurized oxygen chamber that is said to cure the likes of infertility and mental disability.
The arson, and subsequent death of two patients, happened a year ago. The Yoos find themselves in court, listening to the Virginia state prosecutor make a good case against the mother of an autistic patient, Henry, who died in the accident.
Throughout the course of several days and the back and forth of lawyers, witnesses, and law enforcement, the facts of that fateful day last year become muddy. Where was each key player before, during, and after the fire; what are their relationships to one another; and why does it appear that a mother who dedicated her life to the thorough care of her autistic son murdered him in cold blood?
This vivid and poignantly human courtroom thriller answers all the burning questions about the night of the accident, and at the same time muses about deeper questions around the dual roles of mother and caretaker, making oneself at home in a country that is not their own, loss, and family loyalty.
Please take caution while reading Miracle Creek if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Sexual assault
- Child abuse
- Self-harm or suicide
- Death or dying
- Mental illness / disability and ableism
Miracle Creek is absolutely fascinating. The combination of a courtroom setting and the honest storytelling around mental disability and race relations combine to pack a punch.
The story switches between each of the main players on the night of the accident, as well as from within the courtroom and each character’s personal lives. The multiple narratives provide fantastic context and an opening for speculation of what is true, while the change of setting from procedural formality to personal and uninhibited add a great deal of depth to each character’s development.
Kim focuses on rich and intense themes throughout this novel that make it both one-of-a-kind and allow it to transcend from common thriller to also provide important social commentary. The Yoo’s patients are, for the most part, mentally disabled children, and thus there are significant discussions around parenting and care and the morality of various treatments. Additionally, that the Yoos are Korean immigrants allows for important discussions around available opportunities, living in a foreign country, and the ramifications of not speaking the local language.
While I found Miracle Creek to be a very moving and important thriller, unlike any I’ve read, the twist did not shock me. That this is my only complaint shows how great this book is. I highly recommend it to lovers of psychological thrillers, courtroom procedurals, and socially-impacting fiction.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on Miracle Creek. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!