Sunday, January 20, 2019

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I hadn't read any of Liane Moriarty's novels before I decided to try out Nine Perfect Strangers. I've joined the Book of the Month Club, and this was my choice for December. A very snowy and cold weekend kept me on the couch (in between cooking and laundry) reading this novel. I have to say I was a bit disappointed, and also at the same time, interested enough to keep reading. 

Nine Perfect Strangers is about a group of people who travel to Tranquillum House- a  remote health resort in Australia-for a ten day rest and relaxation session. Owned and run  by the glamorous and mysterious Masha, along with her assistants Yao and Delilah, it's a stunning resort guaranteed to reset your life. Electronics and cell phones are forbidden; any junk food or alcohol are confiscated from luggage. 

The nine strangers come from all walks of life: Frances, a romance author with a career on the skids; Tony, a grumpy ex-soccer star; Jessica and Ben, a young married couple who won the lottery (which promptly ruined their lives), Carmel, a mother of four girls feeling fat and rejected since her husband left her for a younger model; Lars, a handsome lawyer who faces a big life decision; and the Marconi family: Napoleon, Heather, and their daughter Zoe, who are together to endure the painful anniversary of Zach's (their son and Zoe's twin) death. Normal, every day people with the usual issues. They are just want some peace and quiet, good meals, relaxation, and hey-if they lose weight, even better. 

However, they are all in for a highly unusual stay at Tranquillum House. It's bizarre, and just gets even stranger as the story moves along. Masha is, quite frankly, batshit crazy. She's decided this group will be the first group of guests to take part in a new program, one that will change their lives profoundly. The guests, however, have no clue what's in store for them. As a reader, I didn't, either. The plot takes some very odd turns. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was a bit underwhelmed. I liked Frances very much, and the Marconi family dynamics are interesting. I felt some characters had more development than others. I wasn't quite sure what the purpose of this tale was; if it was a tongue-in-cheek look at spa resorts, or if it was about strangers coming together and finding out they have a lot more in common than they think. Or if it was about being in a quiet place where you're forced to examine your life, what's worked, and what hasn't, and how you got to the place you are today. Masha as a character was just odd, and her decisions later in the novel are just bizarre. 

I've read reviews online and people are either hot or cold on this novel. I'm somewhere in the middle. It was interesting, but vaguely dissatisfying at the same time. It was longer than I thought was necessary; extra plot could have been condensed. Short chapters made it move quickly; multiple viewpoints from characters kept me turning the pages. If the chapters had been long I probably would have given up before the end. I was, however, interested in what came of everyone after they left Tranquillum House, so I'm glad the author helped close out the story with those chapters. 

Have I left you confused? Well, join the club. It was an okay novel, with elements I enjoyed, but overall, just kind of an odd plot. 

Rating: 2/6 for an uneven novel. Some characters were developed much more than others, leaving me feeling like I was missing something. An extremely strange turn of events at the resort seemed like it was just tossed in for effect, and made the whole novel one that left me scratching my head. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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