Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty is a confusing book incorporating many different characters in a confined space with a word limit. Moriarty had some good plot lines within the text, and I found most of it interesting enough to continue, but somehow this book misses the gel which should bind story lines and characters to make a flowing narrative. Nine Perfect Strangers was published on October 4, 2018 by Penguin Random House.
Frances is a middle-aged lady who’s life is “falling apart”. Her friend has recommended a health spa retreat which she is on her way to. When she arrives, she meets the group of people she will be sharing her ‘journey’ with; one older couple, a younger couple, two single men and a family of three with their twenty-year-old daughter. The retreat is run by a woman called Masha who set it up to transform people’s lives after a near-death experience. Alongside her are her employees, Yao and Delilah who act as the guests’ personal consultants during their stay.
So, I opened this book expecting a refreshingly light tale of self-discovery. I wanted to be absorbed in “up-lit”, which I haven’t read much of previously and was quite let down. The first 150 pages of this book are slow with little plot and no connecting of characters. The family of three’s story was the only one I really cared about, and I felt that the daughter, Zoe, should have been the lead character. Frances was a dull character to follow. She is a typical 50-odd year-old who knows little about popular culture, cars or technology. Many of the characters follow some kind of cliche or stereotype, except from the Marconi family, Masha and Yao.
I actually enjoyed the book for about 175 pages; from around the 150 mark, the story picks up as you learn and understand people’s reasoning for being there. The revelation made here is done well and I was suddenly ready for it to take off, but it just got too twisty and complicated for such a vanilla beginning. From the time when the guests realise that they have been “trapped” it all falls apart for me. Masha’s character took on a completely different role and I saw little to no character development from any one of them in this crucial part of the novel. By the end when they are all quite transformed in ways, I am confused as to where this happened. Most of the accreditation was due to the level of communication they were forced into, which each of them could have done through therapy.
My final point is that there are some incredibly problematic things in this novel. There is a section where Frances is looking at a younger man and she says that nobody warned her that with middle-age came wildly inappropriate desires for younger men; she wonders whether men feel this way their whole lives and if so, no wonder the “poor things” had to pay out all that money in lawsuits. W.T.F?! I hope this was edited out of the final novel and if not, I have no idea how the editors let it pass with the #metoo movement having made such waves recently.
Overall, I would not recommend this book to many people. It starts off slow and boring and leads into a confusing story. There is not much in way of the characters influencing each other’s lives as I had expected, and the ending (before all the XX months later) is just unrealistic. Thank you to Gaby Young and Penguin Random House for my proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.