Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Book Review: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

The Yoo family has emigrated from Korea. First the mother and daughter together, and many years later the dad. The mother and daughter live with a white family in Baltimore. The mother, Young, is essentially treated like a slave, working in a convenience store their host family owns, seven days a week, 12+ hours a day, with a very long commute. The daughter is not treated like their own, but she goes to private school and has a pretty privileged life. So she's become very Americanized, very fast, and when her father, Pak, comes to America and they move to Northern Virginia for him to start a business as owner of a bariatric chamber, there is even more first-generation/second-generation tension than usual.

And one day the bariatric chamber explodes. A child dies, a couple of people are badly injured. Naturally, there's a big trial. Was it the daughter, resentful of her parents and having an affair with an older customer? What about the Yoos, who are finding life in America harder than they'd expected, looking for an insurance payout? Or maybe the mother of the dead child, whose life had been so difficult with a troubled, ill, difficult to manage child who had taken over her life? Then there were the protesters who had gotten dangerously close to the equipment.

Now I have read a fair number of legal thrillers, and this is definitely the most literary one I've ever read. It has much more character development and less action than one gets in a typical legal thriller. But that doesn't mean the tension doesn't ratchet up as you go along. Obviously, there's no lack of suspects, and as each person testifies and we hear the different parties' stories--although not always in court--a multi-layered and complicated story is made clear, and the truth about that horrible day will finally be revealed.

This book is published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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