CANNONBALL!!!! Yikes. I signed up for the half to give myself some breathing room this year and here I am at a full with over a month left to go. I blame CBR Bingo! This was my book club’s pick for November. It kept popping up in all my normal bookish circles, prominently displayed at the library and virtually pushed by Amazon and Goodreads. Reading it, I suppose, was inevitable.
After emigrating from Korea, Young and Pak Yoo work hard to forge a new life that would afford more opportunities for their only child, Mary. They set up what they hope will be a successful business and their piece of the American pie: a Hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment chamber. Catering mostly to children with autism, their “Miracle Submarine” facility counts on a handful of “divers” that undergo treatment twice daily: a mother with a daughter suffering from cerebral palsy, two mothers with boys on the autism spectrum and a medical doctor with fertility issues who also serves as a consultant to the business.
When a suspicious fire is responsible for the death of two of the clients and injuries to several other people, one of the patient’s mothers is accused of intentionally setting the fire to rid herself of her special needs son.
A good deal of the story is set in the courtroom and I’m not a big fan of courtroom drama. As the trial plays out, however, other stories emerge that are more compelling. While the “whodunnit” does drive the action of the novel, it’s the secrets that each of them carry that form the bigger picture. Their inner monologues constantly questioning and ranking their actions and motivations against the actions and motivations of others. Their need for validation that they are a good parent, a good person and that everything that they do is for a good cause.
In a lot of ways, it’s a novel about parenting. Navigating the judgement of other parents. The guilt of feeling overburdened by a child that requires special care. Focusing on a child’s future while neglecting them in the present. Comparing children with their peers. Even the struggle to be able to conceive children at all.
Kim does a good job of capturing the anxieties of parenting and doesn’t shy away from the uglier aspects of it which is refreshing. It’s a solid book and there are some interesting ideas knocking around in there. I guess I was just expecting a bit more after all of the hype, so I’m cannonballing here with something between a bang and a whimper.