Ok I liked the book. Was I absolutely in love with it the way the Bookstagram community was? Not really, but it was still a good book and definitely worth the read.
The story starts off with a bang when a hyperbaric oxygen chamber explodes in Miracle Creek, Virginia. The reason for the explosion? A lit cigarette sitting on top of a pile of twigs right by the oxygen tanks. The explosion wounded several people inside the chamber and killed two people as well. The rest of the story follows the trial of Elizabeth Ward; a mother of one of the victims and main suspect.
The story follows every single person involved in the explosion. From the people inside the submarine to the folks running the show to even people behind the scenes. Each chapter is one character’s personal side to this story while also sharing the proceedings happening during Elizabeth’s trial. As you read, you start to see how things come undone and how the tragedy in the Miracle Submarine are more than what meets the eye.
This book is for anyone who likes a good mystery. The book is written as a courtroom drama, but I think you can also categorize this as a thriller. While you see the explosion through the eyes of the character, I think that’s what keeps the story going; you’re always relying on the narrator of that part to share with you what’s going on. Each event is shared slowly to increase the suspense and keep you reading. It’s brilliantly written with so much sub-context for you to rifle through after. I think the guess was easy for me, but I don’t want to say it was predictable. I think that Angie Kim provides a lot of room for people to make their guesses throughout the novel, but when you see what happens at the end then you’ll be spooked for sure.
The book also explores some very important themes. First off, there’s the Yoo family. They’re the ones that own the medical company who treat patients in the submarine. They’re originally from South Korea and came to America in hopes of a better future and you see from all three sides of the family how that American dream holds up. I loved that Angie Kim shares these stories because it really discusses the immigrant’s story from both adults who are doing everything they can to be successful and their daughter who feels displaced and outcasted in a country that doesn’t understand her or her people.
Then there are the patients. The patients vary from a man suffering with infertility to children with autism spectrum disorder or cerebral palsy. The hyperbaric chamber is created because there’s this idea that 100% pure oxygen fed directly to these patients will help them with the issues they face. It’s a really interesting concept and it dives so well into the world of mothers with special needs children. I felt like it was what mothers do think about, but really don’t want to if that makes sense.
And while the components and themes of the novel seem really interesting, what’s good about this book is how these all incorporate into a bigger picture; who actually caused the explosion? It was so intricate like staring into a tapestry you know took 800 hours to make. From far away, you see this courtroom drama but when you look into the details you see that it’s much more than that.
I will say that the pacing did annoy me in some parts. I don’t know if that was me or if the book was a slow burner, but there were some pretty detailed spots especially during the trial while the lawyers are explaining their positions. It might just be me, but it did deter me a little from enjoying this book fully.
All in all, amazing read. You’re going to have fun with this one and come away with some surprising ends.
I received a copy of this book from FSG for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.