Nine Perfect Strangers #BookReview

Liane Moriarty | November 2018

GoodReads Summary:

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever?

These nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer—or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

My Review:

This is my first Laine Moriarty book and probably my last. 🤦🏾‍♀️ The author, I think, is best known for her 2014 book Big Little Lies, which was adapted into a ‘hit’ tv series. I haven’t read Big Little Lies or watched the tv show. Probably for the same reasons I should have passed on this book. But, it was available, I wanted something different and well, 🤷🏾‍♀️ here we are. Queue whiney, rich, rich adjacent and rich wannabee, barely there drama, anxiety and angst over first world fuckery. If that turns you on, this book wont be so bad.

Set outside Sydney, Australia, the premise is a group of folks, from various walks of life, meeting up at remote spa, Tranquillum House, for a luxury, detox style retreat. 10 days of fasting, meditation, what the author calls ‘noble silence’, massages and interview sessions meant to drill down to personal weaknesses. Tranquillum House’s Director, Masha, a Russian expat, promises rejuvenation and reinvention. Marsha proves to be a bit of a wildcard believing in extreme measures to support her guests reinvention.

Speaking of guests, there is Francis an aging, hot-flashing, slightly overweight author whose been suffering rejections recently in both her professional and personal life. She’s experienced some online bullying via a negative review from a reader, because of that review, she believes her publisher has rejected her recent submission, and an online relationship cat-fishing scam has cost her money, dignity and self-respect. Francis is our narrator for the most part and she lends a bit of comic relief as she navigates through all these uber dramatic, first world problems.

Other guests include 2 couples, one with a teenaged child, attempting to cope with the suicide of their eldest son and the other, who after winning the lottery, marriage has started to fall apart. There is Tony, an out of shape, maybe alcoholic football star and Carmel, a middle aged single mother of four who’s husband left her for a younger woman.

Pros: The characters and their interactions and stories kept me interested. Though their problems initially appear lame, they are a relatable bunch. The lottery wife addicted to plastic surgery, trying to look good for the husband who liked her just the way she was. Poor Francis shares her #MeToo moments in the industry. There’s a weird seance scene where the family gets to reconcile their grief over what happened with the sons suicide. All very interesting. I started to feel like I was watching a soap opera play out in my mind.

Cons: This is a suspense novel but the action doesn’t happen until you are more than midway through the book. If reading about peoples lives doesn’t interest you unless theres shooting and killing involved, this is not your book. Move around. Even when the ‘action’ happens its a bit anti-climatic and drags on too long. I admit I started skipping ahead to get through the scenes so I can continue reading about the characters. The ‘action’ will go long but, the ending is quite satisfying.

This story is really about nine strangers coming together and choosing one another to lean on connecting in crisis. Really connecting in the physical and present and not via text, email, or alcohol. Reading about their reactions to forced silence, lack of alcohol, real food, and no internet was quite interesting. Petty, first world problems, maybe but, when was the last time YOU went without Google..during an intermittent fast? Not easy my friends!

Moriarty gave me shades of Barbara Kingslover’s Unsheltered in this book. Not the content, but, that its filled with what is probably her opinions on age, relationships and women and their bodies. There are a lot of great one liner quotes that would make great memes.

Eh, maybe I did like Nine Perfect Strangers. Masha was right, she said she would change their lives and she did…maybe she changed mine as well. #GoodBook Book 3 of 42! ✅

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