Bingo Square: Own Voices*
In Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run the Miracle Submarine, an experimental medical treatment. Its users include Elizabeth and Kitt, both of whom have sons with autism; Teresa and her daughter Rosa, who has cerebral palsy; and Matt, a doctor with infertility. All are hoping for some miracle cure or even an improvement from this treatment. And the Yoos are hoping it changes their lives, in a slightly different way. Having come from Korea without her husband several years before, Young has worked hard to make a life here for her and her daughter, Mary. With Pak now with them they can make their new business a success and help Mary have a better education and life than they did.
But a tragedy happens. The oxygen chamber explodes, killing two people and injuring others. A parent is put on trial for murder, but everyone else involved has their own secrets. What really happened that day at the creek?
This is a literary courtroom thriller and it’s incredibly well written and moving. It’s not just a who dunnit with flashy trial scenes, it lets you get to know the characters by having chapters dedicated to them, moving back and forth between them as it goes. This also allows us to see the same events from different perspectives. It’s clever in the way it makes an event or someone’s motives seem reasonable and then totally reverses it when seen from another point of view.
It also really made me care about all the characters, but in different ways. I didn’t always like them but I understood why they were doing something or felt the way they did. Several of them are parents trying to cope in very difficult situations – long term caring for a sick child or a child with autism, and the never ending grind that that is, even when you love your child beyond measure. It’s heartbreaking in many ways, not just because of this but because of the how and why the explosion happens. And the lives it ruins.
I will say that the descriptions at the beginning of what happens during the explosion, and especially to a child, were really hard to read and upsetting. I don’t think they’re overly gratuitous, and that any description would probably be more than I wanted in my head, but it’s stayed with me because it’s a nightmare scenario and I’d really like to shake it. Just fair warning.
Other than that this is a brilliant debut and I really recommend it.
*Angie Kim is an immigrant and a former trial lawyer. The Yoo family is based somewhat on her own experience moving from Korea to the US as an adolescent. She also had a child use a hyberbaric chamber for a medical issue and met many families with medical conditions they were hoping the chamber would help with.