Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
|Miracle Creek by Angie Kim|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A thought-provoking look at what it's like to have a special-needs child or to be an immigrant in a strange country. There's an excellent plot in there too.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368/14h15m||Date: April 2019|
|Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|
|External links: Author's website|
The Yoo family originated in Seoul. Yoo Young and her daughter Meh-hee came on ahead of the father of the family, Yoo Pak, as a couple in Baltimore offered to provide accommodation for Young and Meh-hee in exchange for assistance in their grocery store. What Young had not appreciated was that she was to work from 6 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week. For years she hardly saw her daughter except when the Kangs brought Meh-hee to see her at the store. Meh-hee became Mary and struggled at school: her fellow pupils were no exceptions to the rule that children can be cruel and Mary was an easy target.
Eventually they were joined by Pak, a traditional Korean man who expected absolute obedience from his wife and daughter. Neither had wanted to leave Seoul, but he had made his decision and that was that. Now he made another. They were to leave Baltimore and move to Miracle Creek where he planned to set up a business which provided hyperbaric oxygenation, or HBOT, to people who thought that they would benefit from receiving 100% oxygen at three times normal pressure. It provided a service (or pandered, depending on your point of view) to those desperate to find a solution to their problems. Amongst these were mothers of children with autism and a doctor with fertility problems.
On a day in late August 2008 Pak asked his wife to lie for him. It wasn't a big lie, just being at the controls for him whilst he checked that some protesters weren't doing any damage, but to say that he was actually there. It wasn't a big lie, was it? Pak didn't even really think of it as a lie, just a sensible thing to do, but it came at the end of a disruptive day and that was when the fire started. Would it have had a better outcome if Pak had been at the controls? He persuaded Young that it wouldn't: two people would still be dead.
In the event is wasn't Pak who was arrested but the mother of one of the victims. There was a lot of circumstantial evidence against Elizabeth: she'd not been in the chamber when the fire started but she'd deliberately placed her son in what was the worst position should a fire start. She'd (unwisely) admitted that there were occasions when she wished Henry dead. But did Elizabeth start the fire?
This could have been a courtroom thriller like so many that we've seen recently, but it's a great deal more than that. There's a sensitive exploration of what it's like to bring up a special needs child, the unrelenting day-in, day-out of it all, the constant need to be finding something else which could be the answer, the therapies which just might work the miracle. You might begin by wondering why a mother would put this strain on her child, why she's quite so driven but you'll finish by wondering if you could cope in that situation and thanking whatever god you worship if you haven't had to.
There is, too, a great deal of insight into what it's like to leave your homeland and come to another country, particularly if you don't understand the language. Even some of the sounds used in English don't exist in Korean. The other problem which the Yoo family faced was the blatant, unapologetic sexism in Korean culture which travelled well as it moved halfway round the world. Back in Seoul this might have been acceptable: in 21st century USA, Pak is going to find himself challenged.
It's a good plot too: discovering who the arsonist really is was a real puzzle and I swung this way and that. Was it really Elizabeth? What was the doctor doing, meeting teenager Mary Yoo secretly in the woods? Would the protesters actually go to such lengths to make their point about such treatments for autistic children? What effect did the insurance policy which would pay out $1.3m have on Pak's thinking?
I read the book over a couple of days, with real pleasure. Angie Kim is a debut author but she delivers great characters, a good plot and something for you to think about long after you've turned the final page. I look forward to what she writes next and I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.
If you'd like to understand more about autism, read Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight: A Young Man's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida and David Mitchell.
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