Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday
Flashback Friday

When He Finds You

When He Finds You
When He Finds You by Sadie Ryan

Friday, April 3, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: A Land Kinder than Home by Wiley Cash


In his phenomenal debut novel—a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small North Carolina town—author Wiley Cash displays a remarkable talent for lyrical, powerfully emotional storytelling. A Land More Kind than Home is a modern masterwork of Southern fiction, reminiscent of the writings of John Hart (Down River), Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter), Ron Rash (Serena), and Pete Dexter (Paris Trout)—one that is likely to be held in the same enduring esteem as such American classics as To Kill a MockingbirdOf Mice and Men, and A Separate Peace. A brilliant evocation of a place, a heart-rending family story, a gripping and suspenseful mystery—with A Land More Kind than Home, a major American novelist enthusiastically announces his arrival.



A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash is a 2012 William Morrow publication.

Deeply affecting and very impressive debut novel-

Death is to lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for a greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth-Thomas Wolfe-

This book fits into both of my 2020 reading challenges, which is to read authors I haven’t tried yet and reading books everyone has read but me. I had a feeling I was going to like the book and the author, but both exceeded my expectations!!

Told from the triple narratives of nine -year old Jess Hall, Adelaide Lyle, a midwife, and the small North Carolina town Sheriff, Clem Barefield, the story chronicles the rise of Carson Chambliss, pastor of River Road Church of Christ and the hold he has over the community.

The church, zeroing in a specific Bible passage, twists it into a circus of snake handling, speaking in tongues, and the drinking of poison. After Adelaide sees a woman die during one of the 'worhip' services, she dares to challenge the pastor, and steps up to protect the county’s children from him, and the strange goings on at the church.

Jess looks over his brother, Christopher, nicknamed ‘Stump’, who is mute and autistic. But the boys have a habit of snooping, and eventually they see something they shouldn’t have. Their mother, Julie, hoping Stump can be healed, allows the pastor to ‘help’ him. The results of Julie’s faith and desperation will prompt Sheriff Barefield to start poking around in the life of the enigmatic Carson Chambliss. This string of events will erupt into a tragic but fateful turn of events…

I was sitting on the edge of my seat, watching as the clouds build into a powerful storm, knowing there will casualties, but unable to tear myself away. The writing is exemplary, the atmosphere thick with dread, and the characters vivid and vibrant. Southern Fiction is always compelling, but it takes a special talent to capture the right tone. Cash employs a stark, literary prose which is quite effective. Occasionally, it was a bit too polished for this premise, but that's a minor flaw.

Clem is so quiet and introspective and his pain is haunting and palpable. Yet, it wasn’t until the bitter end that I began to feel a deeper respect for him.Jess was the conduit by which the events that transpire are connected. His character is one that inspires sympathy, but of the three narratives, his trials are yet to come, which doesn't allow him much room to develop emotionally. ( I would like to hear from him again, someday, though) It was Addie's courage and morality that made the biggest impression on me.

It’s a good thing to see that people can heal after they’ve been broken, they can change and become something different from what they were before.

The irony is thick as the story winds around, coming full circle. Fate and redemption are the most pronounced themes, but love, and true faith are also very strong messages that shone through the murky mess, bringing the promise of better days ahead.

A brilliant debut! So glad I finally got around to reading this one!






Wiley Cash is the New York Times bestselling author of  The Last Ballad, A Land More Kind than Home, and This Dark Road to Mercy.  He currently serves as writer-in-residence at the Univesity of North Carolina-Asheville and teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA. He lives with his wife and two young daughters on the coast of North Carolina. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

When He Finds You by Sadie Ryan- Feature and Review


“Her life was in danger and she didn’t know it. He felt a thrill just knowing that simple thing

Gemma’s business is on the brink of collapse, and there’s a real chance that she and her husband could lose everything they’ve worked so hard for.
So when a stranger offers financial help, Gemma ignores the red flags and accepts out of desperation. The condition? Just companionship – that’s all the stranger wants. Surely a small price to pay to get her life back?
But when things seem too good to be true, it’s often because they are – and soon Gemma finds herself being dragged so far into a twisted, dangerous world that she might never surface again



When He Finds YouWhen He Finds You by Sadie Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When He Finds You by Sadie Ryan is a 2020 Ruby Fiction publication

Gemma and her husband, Oliver, discover a close friend embezzled all their money, sending them into a spiral of financial ruin.

Yet, Gemma and Oliver have an incredibly strong marriage and have vowed to stick together through thick and thin. But, when Gemma is approached by someone offering her a way out of all her troubles, she gives into temptation and accepts the offer. However, in so doing, she will have to lie and keep things from her husband, something she's never done before. Still, if she can get them out of a bind, it will have been worth it.

But, as her new ‘boss’ begins to infiltrate her life, threatening to expose their arrangement to her husband, Gemma slowly realizes that she’s not only losing everything she worked hard to build and putting her marriage in danger, she is also in serious danger…

When we are desperate or in a state of panic, we often make very poor decisions. We can rationalize and lie to ourselves to justify our choices. While I did question Gemma’s na├»ve jump down the rabbit hole, her desire to get her old life back and find the man responsible for her predicament, could have allowed her to believe in the terms her 'boss' outlined for her. If it seems too good to be true- it probably is, right?

Admittedly, one may be required to suspend belief on occasion, but, be patient, because another layer of the plot will unfold, which explores vendettas and themes of retribution in various forms.

This is not a traditional thriller of mystery, really, in my opinion. The author doesn't stick to the familiar outlines or tropes, for the most part. There is no guessing game here, as we know up front who the bad guy is. We even learn, eventually, what his motives are, and who is in danger and why. Not only that, most of the characters, save for one, are also aware of what is going on.

The suspense comes in the form a cat and mouse game that could end in any number of ways. There are some twists, some more transparent than others, but the ending was a bit of a surprise to me. It didn’t wrap up quite the way I expected it to, but it was satisfying in its own way.

Overall, this an interesting spin on the classic tale of revenge with a healthy dose of karma thrown in for good measure.





Sadie Ryan is an author who loves animals and lives in leafy Cheshire in the North West of England. She has completed two psychological suspense/domestic noir novels. Her debut novel, Behind Closed Doors, was snapped up by publishers Ruby Fiction and is due to be published May 2019. When asked where she gets her ideas from, she says, 'From observation, inspiration and lots of wicked thoughts.'

Behind Closed Doors - Those moments in life you never see coming.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford- Feature and Review


"Once old Mastuh be dead, you be workin' in the fields just like the rest of 'em. That day comin' soon."

Two decades before the Civil War, a middle-class farmer named Samuel Maddox lies on his deathbed. Elsewhere in his Virginia home, a young woman named Kitty knows her life is about to change. She is one of the Maddox family's slaves--and Samuel's biological daughter. When Samuel's wife, Mary, inherits her husband's property, she will own Kitty too, along with Kitty's three small children.

Already in her fifties and with no children of her own, Mary Maddox has struggled to accept her husband's daughter, a strong-willed, confident, educated woman who works in the house and has been treated more like family than slave. After Samuel's death, Mary decides to grant Kitty and her children their freedom, and travels with them to Pennsylvania, where she will file papers declaring Kitty's emancipation. Helped on their perilous flight by Quaker families along the Underground Railroad, they finally reach the free state. But Kitty is not yet safe.

Dragged back to Virginia by a gang of slave-catchers led by Samuel's own nephew, who is determined to sell her and her children, Kitty takes a defiant step: charging the younger Maddox with kidnapping and assault. On the surface, the move is brave yet hopeless. But Kitty has allies--her former mistress, Mary, and Fanny Withers, a rich and influential socialite who is persuaded to adopt Kitty's cause and uses her resources and charm to secure a lawyer. The sensational trial that follows will decide the fate of Kitty and her children--and bond three extraordinary yet very different women together in their quest for justice.

Based on little-known true events and brought vividly to life by Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist Jack Ford, here is an astonishing account of a time when the traditions of the Old South still thrived, a treacherous journey toward freedom--and a testament to determination, friendship, and courage.



Chariot on the MountainChariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford is a 2018 Kensington publication.

Historically interesting, emotionally riveting- and one whale of legal thriller!

This book is based on the true story of Catherine “Kitty” Payne, a slave and the daughter of her 'owner', Samuel Maddox. When Samuel dies, his wife, Mary, decides to set Kitty and children free, which leads to a contentious, and little- known court case where Kitty had to fight to remain free.

In Ford’s tale, the reader follows Kitty on her journey, chronicling her relationship with Mary and the bold decision to take Mary’s nephew to court when he refused to acknowledge her freedom. A slave taking a white man to court in the pre-civil war era was unprecedented to say the least.

I loved the way the author brought Kitty and Mary to life. The progress of their relationship is one of the most rewarding parts of the story. Naturally, Mary had every reason to feel resentful of Kitty and it would have been within her rights to sell Kitty and her children after her husband’s death.

When Mary decided to honor her husband’s last wishes, she goes above and beyond by escorting Kitty and her children to Pennsylvania where they can obtain their freedom. The journey is a dangerous one, but it is also one that solidifies the special bond the women developed which was like a mother-daughter relationship and a close friendship.

When Mary’s nephew interferes, claiming he had a right to take charge of Samuel’s estate, which included his slaves, he hires a group of ‘slave catchers’ to kidnap Kitty and her children and return them to Virginia. But Kitty insists she is free and decides to take her case to court.

From there, Zephania Turner, takes charge of Kitty’s case, and thus begins an arduous, complicated trial that had so many twists I was on the edge of my seat!

I had never heard of this case before now. What an incredible and fascinating story! I’m so glad the author stumbled across it, and shared it through this work of fiction. I so admired these women and their courage and faith.

Everything about this story seems to go against the grain. Mary's decision to help the daughter, her husband fathered with another woman, Zephania taking this case, despite the opposition of family and friends, and the court case itself is nothing short of a miracle considering the time and place in history.

While some abhorrent attitudes still held firm, and some of the characters are despicable, the good people who stood their ground, who faced their enemies and stuck by one another, no matter the consequences, is the part of the story that gives me a slight hope that humanity isn’t as dark and it often appears to be.

This is where we need to keep our focus- on the positive. Right now, times are scary and dark, and it’s brought out the worst in some people, but it’s also brought out the best. Mary and Kitty are an inspiration and a reminder to stay strong, be good to each other, to never give up hope!

Take care my friends and, please stay well!!






Jack Ford is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist, author, college professor, award-winning documentary film producer, and former trial attorney.  An original anchor at the launch of Court TV, he was the co-anchor of the Weekend Today Show, a substitute anchor for Nightly News and Meet the Press, and has worked as a correspondent for Good Morning America and ESPN. Currently he is a CBS News Correspondent for 60 Minutes Sports and the co-host of Metro Focus on PBS. He has received two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, an American Radio and Television Award, a National Headliner Award, and the March of Dimes FDR Award. A graduate of Yale University and the Fordham University School of Law, he is a Visiting Lecturer at Yale, NYU, and the University of Virginia, teaching a seminar on famous trials.

Friday, March 27, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Redemption Road by John Hart- Feature and Review


Over 2 million copies of his books in print. The first and only author to win back-to-back Edgars for Best Novel. Every book a New York Times bestseller.

Now after five years, John Hart is back with a stunning literary thriller.


A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother.

A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.

After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free. But for how long?

And deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, the unthinkable has just happened…

This is a town on the brink. This is a road with no mercy.

After five years, John Hart returns with Redemption Road, his most powerful story yet.


Redemption RoadRedemption Road by John Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Redemption Road by John Hart is a 2016 Thomas Dunne publication.

I don’t live under a rock, I promise, but I always have my face in a book, desperately trying to work through my ridiculous TBR pile. So, sometimes authors slip past my radar, even when they are back to back Edgar winners, like John Hart. I am just now getting around to reading one of his books, but with so much positive press behind him, I was confident I was in for a real treat.

Elizabeth Black, is a well -respected cop with an impeccable record, until she makes a spontaneous decision that has her under fire by the press, the state police, her partner, her superiors, and her father, who is a minister. But, that’s not her only problem by a long shot. Her former idol, Adrian, also a cop, who has spent the last thirteen years in prison, has been released early for good behavior, but his freedom is very short lived, and he soon finds himself the prime suspect in another murder, and on the run. Elizabeth always believed in his innocence and still carries a torch for him, but helping him could cost her everything.

Without having read his previous books, I can’t make any comparisons, but I believe this book certainly lives up to the high standard set for it.

Deemed a literary thriller, this story delves into the murky waters associated with the prison system, rogue cops, and religious zealots.

The innocence of children and their victimization is a key theme in the story as several threads come together exposing horrendous crimes that have far reaching consequences.

Elizabeth Black, is a character I will not forget anytime soon, but the supporting cast is also stellar, each bringing a crucial element to the story. I felt compassion, righteous indignation, and even fury on more than one occasion, on behalf of these characters, but I also came away with a lot of respect for them too.

This crime thriller has everything fans of the genre crave, but it is layered with a rich texture of emotions that touched every nerve fiber in my body. It’s creepy, suspenseful, with plenty of shock and awe, but has a human element to it that is often absent from the standard thriller.

While, it is difficult to provide too much in depth analysis due to the possibility of giving away a key plot twist, I can say I felt some uneasiness due to a few free passes, and was left scratching my head about the attitude of some secondary characters, but overall, I felt the key players came away with something they never really had before, which gave me a feeling of fresh hope even if their circumstances are flawed. So, all in all, I was quite impressed with this story and the author is certainly deserving of all the accolades.

Now that I have experienced John Hart’s writing, which is amazing, by the way, I intend to go back and enjoy more of his work post haste!






JOHN HART is the author of five New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River, The Last Child, Iron House and, most recently, Redemption Road. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, Hart has also won the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller's Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and the North Carolina Award for Literature. With over two million copies in print, his novels have been translated into thirty language and can be found in over seventy countries. "My only real dream," John declares, "has been to write well and to be published well."

Hart was born in Durham, North Carolina in 1965, to a young surgeon and French teacher who quit teaching to raise her children. His parents divorced, yet, as he attests, his childhood was remarkably carefree. "My favorite memory of childhood is a five hundred acre farm where my friends and I would have adventures and get lost for days," he reflects. After high school, he attended Davidson College, just north of Charlotte, which he describes as a "marvelous school." He studied French literature and briefly lived in Paris and London. Upon returning home to North Carolina, he settled in Rowan County, where his first two novels are set, and on which the fictional Raven County is based. He earned graduate degrees in accounting and law where, after days of slogging through course work, he would find release through writing.

A former banker, stockbroker and criminal defense attorney, Hart now writes full-time. "I admire those who are able to write at four in the morning and still function in the real world," he states. "After two failed attempts, I decided that I lacked that particular talent." Shortly after the birth of his first child, John left his law practice to take a stab at chasing the dream of writing novels for a living. He spent nearly a year in a carrel at the Rowan County Public Library. The result was his debut bestseller, The King of Lies.

John Hart has three great passions: his family, his writing, and the protection of open spaces. He lives in Virginia with his wife and two daughters, and is already writing his sixth novel, a sequel to The Last Child.


Website: http://www.johnhartfiction.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnHartAuthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/johnhartauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnhartauthor/

Monday, March 23, 2020

The River by Peter Heller- Feature and Review


The story of two college friends on a wilderness canoe trip—of a friendship tested by fire, white water, and violence

Wynn and Jack have been best friends since freshman orientation, bonded by their shared love of mountains, books, and fishing. Wynn is a gentle giant, a Vermont kid never happier than when his feet are in the water. Jack is more rugged, raised on a ranch in Colorado where sleeping under the stars and cooking on a fire came as naturally to him as breathing. When they decide to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada, they anticipate long days of leisurely paddling and picking blueberries, and nights of stargazing and reading paperback Westerns. But a wildfire making its way across the forest adds unexpected urgency to the journey. When they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank and decide to warn them about the fire, their search for the pair turns up nothing and no one. But: The next day a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the man they heard? And, if he is, where is the woman?



The RiverThe River by Peter Heller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The River by Peter Heller is a 2019 Knopf Publishing Group publication.

An intense adventure between man and nature amidst a battle between good and evil…

Two close friends, Wynn and Jack, one from Vermont and the other from Colorado, each with different temperaments, decide to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada. They have dreams of taking it slow and easy, kicking back and enjoying nature at its finest.

However, a wildfire changes the tone of their trip, adding a sense of unease that intensifies when, after hearing a couple arguing, they attempt to warn them of the fire, but can’t seem to locate them in the fog. The next day they encounter a man paddling alone on the river, who claims his wife has gone missing.

From there Wynn and Jack find themselves in a taut, dangerous situation as they search for the missing woman, while the wildfire builds to a crescendo.

Wow! Talk about white knuckle suspense! This book is less than three hundred pages long, but sometimes the best things come in small packages.

The story is packed with exceptional and stunning scenery one can truly envision, and the characterizations are just incredible. I understood fully the different personalities Wynn and Jack possessed, how they each had definite and strong opinions about how to approach their unexpected dilemma. The precision timing carries the story from a relaxed excursion to a nightmarish race against time with exceptional pacing that kept me on the edge of my seat.

I would agree the story could and should be labeled as a thriller, but it’s much more than that. So much happens in such a short span of time, it isn’t until the final chapter that one has the chance to really stop an reflect on all events leading up to that moment, and how quickly one’s life can drastically change.

The deep emotional impact remains long after the final page is turned. This thought- provoking story was released in 2019 and the message was clear and profound enough at that time. Everyday life poses at least some risk and can turn on a dime, as we have witnessed in the past few weeks, making an already disquieting story about coping with random, unforeseen events feel even more timely than usual.

I’m pushing the ‘recommend’ button on this one.

All the stars for this one!






Peter Heller holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in both fiction and poetry. An award-winning adventure writer and longtime contributor to NPR, Heller is a contributing editor at Outside magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure, and a regular contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek. He is also the author of several nonfiction books, including Kook, The Whale Warriors, and Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

Friday, March 20, 2020

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott


Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate. From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl," (Janet Maslin) You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.



You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott is a 2016 Little Brown publication.

I put this book on hold way back at the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics, and quickly discovered I had a very long wait ahead of me. FINALLY, I got a copy and immediately blew through the book at record speed.

I knew I was about to witness a train wreck, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages. This book disturbed me for days after I finished it, and I still get a queasy feeling when I think about it.

The story, as you know, is centered around Devon Knox, a promising gymnast who has the potential to become an Olympian. But, while Devon is at the center of the story, the spotlight is on her parents and the tight-lipped, exclusive enclave belonging to the world of the elite gymnast.

If you need a book that has a likeable character, (not counting poor little Drew), a person you root for, or who rises up to redeem themselves, or need a mystery/crime story to wrap everything up in a nice little knot, I warn you, this novel does not do that, but instead will leave you feeling disquieted and chilled right down to the bone. It's good stuff!

While we all watch the dwarfed little darlings who perform at Olympic levels and cheer our hearts out for them, hold our collective breaths while they perform death defying aerial feats on a four inch wide beam, four feet off the ground, buying into the heartwarming marketing ploys that guarantee endorsement contracts, we never see what happens behind the scenes. The falls, bruises, sprains, breaks, blisters, and the hours and hours of training, the money involved, and the toll it takes on a family.

This book gives the reader a little inside peek into that world, and exposes an ugly and dark underbelly that includes cover-ups, manipulations, scheming, little fiefdoms, abuse of power, intense pressure, and perhaps something far more sinister, like murder.

Katie and Eric live a middle class existence, but they are in deep debt, paying for all of Devon’s training, and gymnastic needs, while their son Drew lives in his sister’s dark, lonely, and cold shadow, practically ignored by his family, but seeing far more than the adults give him credit for.

Because the Knox family has no friends outside the world of elite gymnast, their parents, and coaches, and because their life is all about Devon, they spend every waking hour they aren’t working or sleeping, at meets and raising money for Devon’s needs. Devon is isolated and sheltered, ridiculed in high school for her stature and muscles, and for her underdeveloped female attributes, but at the gym, she is the object of awe, is looked up to, but she is also the target of jealousy and resentment. There are no boys, parties, or dating for Devon, who must work hard to achieve every goal her parents and those depending on her are expecting of her.

So, when a set-back causes Eric to take steps to get Devon back on track, a young, good looking guy enters this elite world and turns everything upside down and inside out. But, when a shocking crime is committed, this community, so solid and connected to each other will slowly implode, but will also close ranks to protect the only life they know… no matter what the cost.

This story almost held me in a trance like state while I watched the events unfolding before me, as Katie begins to find herself shut out of the life she thought she was so connected to, trying desperately to hold on to her daughter, and her marriage, but is ultimately left shell shocked by the irony of it all.

The tragedy shakes everyone up, exposes cracks in the Knox family, the world of gymnastics, and shines a light on the mental and emotional strain the family is under, the true feelings they have, deep down, and how horribly sad these abuses, neglect, and their obsession really is, but the sadness is far outweighed by how cold and terrifying this book is. It definitely left me feeling shaken, and I admit, I may never watch the Olympic gymnastics events the same way again!!

Overall, you have to read this book to really 'get' the intensity of it, and I hope you will check it out for yourself.





Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, The End of Everything, Dare Me, and her latest, The Fever, which was chosen as one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon, National Public Radio, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times.

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Believer and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She has taught at NYU, the State University of New York and the New School University. In 2013-14, she served as the John Grisham Writer in Residence at Ole Miss.

She is also the author of a nonfiction book, The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir, and the editor of A Hell of a Woman, an anthology of female crime fiction. She has been nominated for many awards, including three Edgar® Awards, Hammett Prize, the Shirley Jackson Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Folio Prize

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim- Feature and Review


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?



Miracle CreekMiracle Creek by Angie Kim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim is a 2019 Sarah Crichton Books publication.

Fantastic! Lived up to the hype

Everyone knows I love a good courtroom drama, so this book was highly recommended to me by some of my GRs peers. But, try as I might, the book just wasn’t calling out to me when it was first released. So, I waited for the right mood, and I think my instincts paid off this time.

In a small Virginia town, a Korean couple has set up a Hyperbaric chamber on their land, which draws  a group of eclectic people, all hoping to find relief from conditions ranging from autism to infertility. However, some people are adamantly opposed to this controversial treatment for children with autism, and have begun protesting.

Then, a tragic explosion leaves two people dead, and severely injures several others, leaving many lingering questions behind.

Was it an accident or was it deliberate? Was it one of the protestors or a member of the group participating in the chamber treatment?

As the investigation proceeds, the mother of an autistic boy is singled out as the prime suspect. Did she, with malice aforethought, set out to murder her own child? There is strong circumstantial evidence that she did, but as the trial begins, the situation leading up to the explosion is revealed, exposing a plethora of secrets, cover-ups, lies, and agonizing guilt, providing more than ample reasonable doubt in the reader's mind. Is the right person on trial?

The premise of this book is a bit unusual, at least in the beginning. I have heard of the hyperbaric chamber, or something like it, probably from some medical drama on television, but I didn’t know its official name or what all it was used for.

Apparently, it is used for numerous health issues ranging from anemia to vision loss, but is questionable when it comes to certain other conditions. Interesting. I learn something new every time I read a book!

The downside, of course, was the uptick in the number of characters I had to keep track of. Again, I found myself reading slower to make sure I was understanding everything that was going on. I listened to portions of this book on audio as well, and thought it was very well done considering the amount of characters involved.

It feels like I have been waiting for decades for a riveting courtroom drama. The well is so dry, I soaked this one up like a sponge! As popular as this book became, I hoped it would prompt a legal thriller comeback- just so long as it didn’t turn into a ‘trend’ or oversaturation. (Doesn’t anyone know how to practice moderation?)

However, this story goes much deeper than the murder trial. It also takes a hard look at what it means to be a parent- the desire to shelter and protect our children and the strong urge to give them a better life and a brighter future, providing them with the best advantages possible. Yet, the moral example one sets, is equally important, as well as instilling a strong level of accountability, from both parent and child, building true character.

Parenting is difficult under the best of circumstances, but raising a child with special needs is an all- consuming effort, the challenges constant, and this novel provides some very realistic examples of that, measuring the exhausting toll it can take on even the most resilient and dedicated parents.

Overall, this is a well-rounded novel that could just as easily have relied on one dimension of the story- the trial,or the behind the scenes drama that revealed all those stunning secrets and resentments. To have adeptly combined the two aspects of the story, with balance, and near perfect pacing, is what really made this novel stand out.

Obviously, I am very impressed by this debut novel. Can’t wait to see what Angie Kim comes up with next.





Angie Kim moved from Seoul, South Korea, to the suburbs of Baltimore as a preteen. She attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, then practiced as a trial lawyer at Williams & Connolly. Her stories have won the Glamour Essay Contest and the Wabash Prize for Fiction, and appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Salon, Slate, The Southern Review, Sycamore Review, Asian American Literary Review, and PANK. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and three sons. MIRACLE CREEK is her first book. Visit her website at www.angiekimbooks.com