Last week my book club had the opportunity to meet with Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek, a courtroom drama about a Korean-American family. Kim was fantastic and spent a lot of time with our group. She shared a lot of interesting details about how her life experiences influenced the book, and the kinds of things she thought about as she wrote it. She was great about answering the questions posed by our group, a lot of which focused on the writing and editing process. I left our discussion with an even deeper appreciation for her book.
Kim moved to the U.S. from Korea with her family as a preteen. She talked about the difficulties she and her parents had adjusting to life in the U.S., particularly difficulties with language. When asked about some of the most meaningful lines in her book, she talked about how being limited by language makes you feel so much less competent, and it really impacts your interactions with others.
This was the thing he regretted most about their move to America: the shame of becoming less proficient, less adult, than his own child.
She also talked about her experiences taking her son with ulcerative colitis to hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and becoming close to the other parents; these experiences feature prominently in the book. While the parents in Miracle Creek can be hard on each other, Kim emphasized the tremendous support and friendship that those parents provided. Though she did experience that sense of “competition” among the parents – comparing whose child’s needs are the greatest, which parents are the “luckiest.” Her line in the book about bonbons came from real life.
Kim also talked about her legal career, and how reading a great book made her decide that writing was what she needed to be doing. Much of the book is based on her own legal experiences, and it shows. I thought the lawyers seemed realistic, and the courtroom drama is based on the techniques of interviewing witnesses, displaying information, and using rhetorical strategies to make the case. Members of my book club pointed out that a lot of the unfolding of facts occurs outside the courtroom. It’s pretty rare for new information to be provided on the stand, and yet courtroom dramas always seem to do this.
It was really interesting to hear about her experiences as a first time novelist, like how the book changed over time, how she received input from editors and readers, how the cover was designed and how the audio-book reader was selected. It seems incredible to me for a first novel to become so successful — though I think when a debut author is really successful, writing that second book must be very difficult.
She talked about literary influences on her writing, and I didn’t catch all of them but she gave me a few to look up: Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods, Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River, and Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter.
Miracle Creek is a great book and one I highly recommend. Its a legal drama and a mystery, but also a really thoughtful book about issues facing immigrant families in America and issues facing the families of children with special needs. And somehow, it’s all done in a way that will keep you turning pages, wanting to see how the story plays out.
I should say here that I’ve paraphrased what Kim talked about, so these are just my own impressions. For a deeper interview, see this article in The Guardian. Thanks so much to Angie Kim, Old Town Books, and the Women of the World book club for planning such a great event.