Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Release Date: November 6, 2018
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5
I’m still utterly shocked that the concept behind this narrative was somehow able to stretch to fit nearly 450 and not feel onerous. The story follows (shocker) Nine Perfect Strangers, who all travel to Tranquillium House, a health retreat run by the green eyed, Amazonian Masha, and her right hand helpers, Yao and Delilah. Each of the individuals, or family units, is there for a different reasons; some are health retreat junkies, while others were persuaded to visit Tranquillium House by friends or family. The main narrator is Frances, a lovable, middle aged writer of romance novels, who is going through a bit of a career slump while fighting a daily battle with menopause. You can’t help but feel for Frances. She’s been divorced twice, has no children (and no interest in them), and is just trying to keep up with the changing world around her. Her biggest concern going into her ‘cleansing’ experience seems to be missing out on her daily glass(es) of wine.
The other visitors at Tranquillium House include the Marconi Family (Napolean, Heather, and their daughter Zoe), Tony, Carmel, Ben and his wife Jessica, and Lars. There are a whole host of difficulties these visitors are trying to reconcile, from grief over the loss of a family member, to body dysmorphia, and marital struggles. Each chapter focuses on a different one of these guests, so, although their retreat begins with several days of complete silence, we get an in-depth understanding of their thoughts and feelings regarding not only the retreat itself, but the fellow participants, and their pasts. In fact, I thought that starting the journey with the characters being unable to speak with one another was a very innovative way to let the reader get to know the minds of these nine strangers.
Then there’s Masha. Masha used to be a high powered corporate worker (I’m not sure we ever find out exactly what she did– for some reason there was a lot of focus on her being somehow involved in toothpaste sales). In any case, she was ‘reborn’ one day after a heart attack when she was legally dead for a period of time. This enlightening experience inspired her to open her own health retreat and begin a personal health journey that included losing weight, quitting smoking, and kicking her habit of eating entire bags of Doritos in one sitting. Masha is all about finding cutting edge processes to help her guests experience transformation to the fullest of their abilities. So much so, that she implements a brand new protocol for these nine guests that includes ‘micro-dosing,’ aka, putting tiny amounts of LSD in their daily smoothies to ‘heighten their mental awareness,’ and then (spoiler alert) giving them ‘magic mushrooms’ and locking them in a yoga studio for several days. Honestly, Masha is the reason this book kind of lost me towards the end. I found all the other characters very interesting, multidimensional, and believable, but she was just weird. Towards the close of the book, we find out more about the trauma in her past, and how that may have shaped her, but at that point it kind of just seemed tacked on to me.
Similar to my notes on the book The Dreamers, this book was enjoyable to me because of the characters. There was not a ton of plot (although there were some weird, far-fetched twists, as mentioned above, that I didn’t think about too much because they definitely lessened my enjoyment of the story). All in all, I did like the concept of this book. It was incredibly unique, and, coming from someone who generally shies away from anything over 400 pages, it definitely didn’t seem as long as it was. I’m not sure I would go so far as to recommend this story, but it was an enjoyable, and very different type of read for me.