May 2019 Indie Next List
— Sara Hinckley, Hudson Booksellers, Marietta, GA
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WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
The “gripping… page-turner” (Time) hitting all the best of summer reading lists, Miracle Creek is perfect for book clubs and fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng
How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?
In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.
A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?
“A stunning debut about parents, children and the unwavering hope of a better life, even when all hope seems lost" (Washington Post), Miracle Creek uncovers the worst prejudice and best intentions, tense rivalries and the challenges of parenting a child with special needs. It’s “a quick-paced murder mystery that plumbs the power and perils of community” (O Magazine) as it carefully pieces together the tense atmosphere of a courtroom drama and the complexities of life as an immigrant family. Drawing on the author’s own experiences as a Korean-American, former trial lawyer, and mother of a “miracle submarine” patient, this is a novel steeped in suspense and igniting discussion.
Recommended by Erin Morgenstern, Jean Kwok, Jennifer Weiner, Scott Turow, Laura Lippman, and more--Miracle Creek is a brave, moving debut from an unforgettable new voice.
Praise For Miracle Creek: A Novel…
WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
A Best Book of the Year:
Time * The Washington Post * Today show * Real Simple * Kirkus * Library Journal * Chicago Public Library * BookPage * CrimeReads
A Washington Post Bestseller * A Goodreads Choice Award Finalist * A Good Morning America Hot Summer Read * An Entertainment Weekly April Jewel * A Southern Living Best Spring Book * An Elle Reading List Selection * A People Best New Book * An IndieNext Pick * A LibraryReads Selection * A Book of the Month Selection
"[A] thought-provoking journey of ideas [and] a fascinating study of the malleability of truth in the courtroom . . . Miracle Creek is a brave novel that challenges assumptions of reality."
—Krys Lee, The New York Times Book Review
"One of the best mysteries I've read in a really, really long time."
—Téa Obreht (a Must-Read Pick for the Today show)
"A deeply moving story about parents and the lengths they will go for their children . . . Readers will be riveted by the book’s genre-bending structure and superb pace. Miracle Creek is a stunning debut about parents, children and the unwavering hope of a better life, even when all hope seems lost."
—Jung Yun, The Washington Post
"I literally couldn't put it down. It's that wonderful, brilliant story of book that you want to shove at other people as soon as you've finished."
—Erin Morgenstern, author of The Starless Sea
"A really, really gripping-page turner. . . . Something goes wrong, a mother and child die, there's a big courtroom showdown, and it turns out everyone is keeping secrets. . . . Recommended for those who love a good thriller."
—Jennifer Weiner for Good Morning America
"[A] mesmerizing debut . . . [Angie Kim] shows an enormous amount of empathy for her characters, infusing them with such intense humanity that I sat weeping for them in an airplane middle seat, between two strangers, for several minutes after I finished the book. With clear, assured prose and penetrating emotional intelligence, she takes us deep into their inner lives . . . The plotting is deliberate and detailed and marvelously done."
—Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times
"Gripping . . . Although the plot of Miracle Creek is propelled by a murder trial . . . the book shines when the characters involved open up about what it’s like to make intense sacrifices for the people they love. From the immigrants who ran the facility to the single mother of the child who was killed, Kim makes a case for compassion that surpasses the suspense of her page-turner."
—Annabel Gutterman, Time Magazine
"Miracle Creek is a quick-paced murder mystery that plumbs the power and perils of community."
—Trish Bendix, O: The Oprah Magazine
"Combining the tense atmosphere of a courtroom drama with a moving study of the sacrifices that parents are prepared to make for their children, Angie Kim’s debut is pacey and thought-provoking."
—Eithne Farry, Sunday Express S Magazine
"Take the taut pace of a police procedural drama and infuse it with the deftly wrought relationships of a Celeste Ng novel, and you'll get Miracle Creek . . . A page-turner backed up by big ideas about family and what we'd do for them."
—Elena Nicolau, Refinery29
"Clear your calendars, put your phones on airplane mode, and get ready to hear the sounds of your heartstrings being plucked! This stunning debut is a family drama, courtroom thriller, and a mystery, all of which add up to one of the most incredible novels of 2019 . . . My two-word review: Jaw. Dropping. I was absolutely floored by this book! Reading it felt like opening a present I had been hiding in my heart."
—Liberty Hardy, Book of the Month Club
"[Miracle Creek] is a gripping page-turner, but what I loved most was Kim’s thoughtful, honest exploration of parents of children with special needs, and immigrants. Perfectly paced, filled with wisdom and compassion, this is a book you don’t want to miss."
—Jean Kwok, Bustle
"I was immediately drawn in by Kim’s vivid, horrifying opening chapter, building a tension that doesn’t let up until the book’s final pages . . . [Miracle Creek] powerfully, and at times painfully, interrogates the inner lives of women who are the primary caregivers for children with chronic, debilitating medical conditions . . . Even as the courtroom plot unspools, Kim also encourages readers to look at the uncomfortable truths that might remain unspoken or barely whispered, as she lays bare her characters’ deepest vulnerabilities and darkest moments."
—Norah Piehl, BookReporter
“A rigorous character study, touching on themes of immigration and motherhood.”
"Although the case seems open-and-shut, nothing is quite so simple in Kim's compulsively readable debut."
—The Washington Post
"Kim has an expert knack for feeding readers clues like breadcrumbs . . . Perhaps one of the most interesting facets of Miracle Creek is its exploration into the fragility of traditional gender roles . . . Set amidst the U.S. justice system, Kim explores the deepest, darkest and most untamed facets of the human psyche through her riveting tale of murder."
—Mae Hamilton, Character Media
"Exceptional . . . one of the best books I’ve read so far this year, if not one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years . . . One of Stephen King’s greatest gifts as a writer, I have always felt, is how he is completely unafraid to take risks with who his characters are . . . Kim does the same, making her characters so real in their ugliness and their guilt, unafraid to show that parenting is an ugly job that sometimes has wonderful benefits."
—Queer and Loathing in America
"Miracle Creek is a courtroom drama with impeccable pacing, an original plot, and stellar writing. It’s also a remarkably empathetic book, exploring the ripple effects of causality and the urgent need to do right by each other in big and small ways . . . A great read that deserves broad success."
—Sara Hinckley, IndieBound.org
“With so many complications and loose ends, one of the miracles of the novel is that the author ties it all together and arrives at a deeply satisfying—though not easy or sentimental—ending. Intricate plotting and courtroom theatrics, combined with moving insight into parenting special needs children and the psychology of immigrants, make this book both a learning experience and a page-turner. Should be huge.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“This stunning debut by Angie Kim is both an utterly engrossing, nail-biter of a courtroom drama and a sensitive, incisive look into the experiences of immigrant families in America.”
"Kim effectively uses her background as a trial lawyer, skillfully crafting her narrative by interweaving the stories of her characters, each of whom speak for themselves as the story progresses toward a surprise ending. With touches of mystery, legal thriller, and character-driven storytelling, where nothing is ever quite as it seems, Kim's promising debut will certainly have readers looking forward to her next offering."
—Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] masterpiece of grief, hope, and recrimination . . . A complex novel of parenting, prejudice, and putting blame where blame’s due, this one is not to be missed.”
"[Miracle Creek] has everything you're looking for in a book."
—Reading Women Podcast
"This courtroom thriller is easily one of my most favorite reads of the year-to-date and the industry buzz is massive. Pre-order this one, so that you can read it before all your friends start talking about it."
—Kristopher Zgorski, Bolo Books
“A stand-out, twisty debut . . . Kim, a former lawyer, clearly knows her stuff . . . a masterfully plotted novel about the joys and pains of motherhood, the trick mirror nature of truth, and the unforgiving nature of justice.”
“Powerful courtroom scenes invite comparisons to Scott Turow, but Kim’s nuanced exploration of guilt, resentment, maternal love, and multifaceted justice may have stronger appeal for readers.”
“I know this story but have never seen it in a novel—the struggles of the Korean immigrant entrepreneur in America, with a technology that seems like magic, who can go from hero to villain in an instant, now at the center of what is possibly a murder—a bright seam of crisis, mystery, and love emerges in these pages. Kim has written a bold debut novel about science and immigration and the hopes and fears each engenders—unforgettable and true.”
—Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
“Miracle Creek is a marvel, a taut courtroom thriller that ultimately tells the most human story imaginable, a story of good intentions and reckless passions. Compelling, generous, at once empathetic and unsparing. I am wrecked, I am heartened and hopeful, which means, in short, that Miracle Creek is pretty much the perfect novel for these chaotic times in which we live.”
—Laura Lippman, author of Sunburn
“Miracle Creek grabbed me hard right from the start. This is a terrific courtroom thriller, a sly whodunit that’s beautifully written and also full of heart.”
—Scott Turow, author of Testimony
“Miracle Creek is an engrossing puzzle-box of a book: a twisty courtroom drama that also manages to be emotionally astute, culturally perceptive, and deeply empathetic. Angie Kim tackles hot-button subjects with a delicate touch, proving herself a master of both portraiture and storytelling. I loved this novel.”
—Janelle Brown, author of the New York Times bestseller Watch Me Disappear
"I love a good courtroom drama, so I love Miracle Creek. But this is more than a good thriller; it is the story of parents with children needing treatment for autism or cerebral palsy; the story of a family of Korean immigrants; the story of myriad marriages and the 'right' way to raise children in a very challenging environment. I loved this book and can't wait to introduce it to book clubs . . . if only so I can have someone to talk about it with."
—Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books & Cafe
A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 at: BuzzFeed, Refinery29, CrimeReads, Electric Literature, Nylon, The Millions, BookRiot and more. Featured in Refinery29, Harper's BAZAAR, The Saturday Evening Post, The Telegraph, and the Reading Women Podcast
Sarah Crichton Books, 9780374156022, 368pp.
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
About the Author
Angie Kim moved as a preteen from Seoul, South Korea to the suburbs of Baltimore. She attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, then practiced as a trial lawyer at Williams & Connolly. Her stories have won the Glamour Essay Contest and the Wabash Prize for Fiction, and appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Salon, Slate, The Southern Review, Sycamore Review, Asian American Literary Review, and PANK. Kim lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and three sons.
Miracle Creek is Kim's debut novel.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. In the opening chapter of Miracle Creek, Young Yoo narrates her version of events on the evening of the HBOT explosion. What is the effect of this first-person narrative compared with the rest of the book, which is written in the third person? What are the details in Young’s story that create suspense? What does Young know that hints at the truth about what happened? What information is she missing?
2. Abe Patterley, the prosecuting attorney, calls Dr. Matt Thompson as his first witness against Elizabeth Ward. What dual purpose does Matt’s testimony serve? What does it reveal about Matt— what he believes about the effectiveness of HBOT and how he came to be undergoing treatments, as well as his personal life? What is Matt afraid of divulging in court?
3. What are some of the differences between American and Korean culture that the book explores? How are these experienced by Matt and Janine? By the Yoo family? How are the Korean characters stereotyped by others? How do they defy stereotype?
4. As the trial proceeds, the defense and prosecuting attorneys attempt to re-create the time line leading to the explosion. What are some of the lies and false assumptions contained in the testimony of witnesses and experts? What is the circumstantial evidence that led to Elizabeth’s arrest? How does each of the lawyers try to influence the jury?
5. Autism is diagnosed on a spectrum with a wide variation in symptoms, as evidenced by TJ Kozlowski and Henry Ward. In Miracle Creek, the mothers of autistic children are portrayed as having a wide range of beliefs about treatments for their children. What do Kitt, Elizabeth, and Ruth Weiss each believe about treatments? What are the circumstances of Kitt’s and Elizabeth’s lives that influence their behavior?
6. On the day of the explosion, as well as during the trial, many of the characters make decisions that ultimately change the course of their lives. What are some of these decisions? How might things have turned out differently if, for example, Matt hadn’t bought cigarettes, or Janine hadn’t gone to see Mary?
7. Pak Young is described as a “wild goose father,” a man who remains in Korea to work while his wife and children move abroad for better education. Pak will make any sacrifice for Mary. Who are the other fathers in the story and what are their relationships with their wives and children? What is the picture of fatherhood that emerges?
8. What is the reality of being the mother of a special needs child? How do Elizabeth, Teresa, and Kitt each cope with the daily demands of caregiving? Where do they find support? What are their relationships with each other? Elizabeth, in particular, devotes herself to Henry. What is her motivation for constantly seeking new therapies, some of which are painful and possibly harmful? How does Kitt feel about Elizabeth’s treatment of Henry? What does Elizabeth realize as she watches the video of Henry? Why does she take the drastic action she takes at the end of the novel?
9. Several small and seemingly insignificant objects are important to the development of the book’s characters and the unfolding of the plot—for example, Janine’s wok and the balloons. What are some of the others and the purposes they serve?
10. Each of the main characters feels guilty about something he or she did or failed to do. Why is Young relieved on the first day of the trial when the judge announces, “Docket number 49621, Commonwealth of Virginia versus Elizabeth Ward”? What are Pak and Young, Matt and Janine, hiding from Abe Patterley? At the book’s conclusion, is there anyone who can be described as completely innocent? Did any good come of the tragedy?
11. What brought Young and Pak from Seoul to Baltimore and, ultimately, to Miracle Creek? What is Young’s first impression of the United States and its citizens? How were the Yoo family’s expectations of America different from the realities? How were Young, Pak, and Mary different as individuals and as a family before they immigrated?
12. As Day Three of the trial ends, Young and Matt are each determined to learn the truth about what their spouses have been hiding. What has Young discovered that causes her to doubt Pak? Why does Pak continue to lie to her? What has Matt discovered about Janine? What lies do Matt and Janine persist in telling each other?
13. On Day Four of the trial, Abe introduces as evidence “a blow-up of notepad paper, phrases scrawled everywhere,” taken from Elizabeth’s house after the explosion. In particular, there are five phrases on the page, highlighted in yellow: I can’t do this anymore; I need my life back; It needs to end TODAY!!; Henry = victim? How?; and NO MORE HBOT, which has been circled several times. What was Elizabeth’s frame of mind when she wrote these notes to herself? What is the truth about the last day of Henry’s life?
14. Shannon and Abe appear to be skillful and highly ethical attorneys. In order to do their jobs, they have no choice but to believe their witnesses as they build their cases. Do either of them doubt any of the information they’ve been given? What tactics do each of them use to influence the jury? Which one of them seems closer to winning the case when Elizabeth’s disappearance puts an end to the trial?
15. What is the chain of events that turns Mary’s teenaged feelings of anger and humiliation into the actions she takes on the night of the explosion? How does Pak rationalize his plan for saving her? Should Matt and Janine have been held accountable for how they treated her?
16. Were you surprised to discover the identity of the person who set the fire? Do you view what that person did as murder? Was that person’s sentence fair? How about the sentences of the others?