Published by Sarah Crichton Books on April 16, 2019
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 showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. 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?
Wow, Miracle Creek was a rough one. Not because of the subject matter necessarily – unfortunately, I think it fell into the dreaded “everyone hyped this book up so much it’s perfect omg” trap, where everyone told me how great the view from this one hill was but I wound up slipping down into a ravine and stuck with a broken leg yelling up at the sky like “this isn’t what I wanted.”
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
There are a lot of layers to Miracle Creek, and a lot of depth to each one. On the surface, this is a cut and dry courtroom drama story – Miracle Submarine, a homeopathic oxygen therapy space that claims to help everything from autism to infertility, is set on fire one night while there are several patients still inside, hooked up to oxygen. Two die, several others are scarred – metaphorically and physically both. Who did it? Everyone thinks it is one woman in particular, one who was on a quest to cure her son’s autism, who seems to be fairly glad he’s gone. But the jury and the defense attorney aren’t so sure, and neither is the prosecution any more.
Obviously, it’s more layered than that.
There are lots of people who have motivation to burn down Miracle Submarine. The immigrant family who moved from Korea to start their dream – Young and Pak, and their teenage daughter Mary. They are poor, could possibly use the money from the insurance. Elizabeth, the mother of the little boy who died. Matt, the doctor who is hiding a secret with teenage Mary – a shameful one. There are a lot of “hmmm”s to process, here, and nobody is innocent – everyone is morally grey.
We find out in the end what happened, and it’s a pretty satisfying conclusion. Loose ends are all wrapped up. Justice is served, even though it’s steeped in sadness and despair. This has all the makings of a story I love – courtroom drama, morally grey people, no easy answers, no big red bow ending. So where did it all fall flat? I am not even sure.
The Bottom Line
This is an important book, let me be clear. It makes statements across so many levels – autism, “curing” diseases that perhaps are not meant to be cured, infertility, fetishization of Asian culture, interracial marriage, the gang’s all here. I sense that perhaps this is exactly what wound up making this so hard to read for me – it went in so many directions all at once and tried to be all things to all people.
Jodi Picoult used to write books that were one subject hits – this book is about school violence, this book is about a kid with stigmata (I love that one), etc. But her more recent books tend to be all over the place, and it really loses me there – my favorites are when you address one singular issue very well. Miracle Creek addresses a lot of little issues pretty well, but I wish it would have focused on one.
I am trying to revamp what my star ratings mean, because not every book is 4 or 5 stars. There is nothing inherently wrong with a 3 star book, and I keep trying to remind myself of that. This is a good book, it’s a needed book. It tackles a lot of issues. But for some reason I cannot articulate, it dragged to me. And that’s OK. It’s still a worthy book with endless quotes I could have pulled from it, and I highly recommend it for fans of the courtroom drama novel.
“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.”