After a brief hiatus to focus on annual newspaper responsibilities, Book Babe is back to review “Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty.
This is a fantastic novel that is the unfortunate victim of a Hulu adaptation starring Nichole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy. I do not think the series did justice to the story, and it’s really unfortunate. If you have to choose between the two, read the book.
“Nine Perfect Strangers” is a truly fascinating book for a variety of reasons, not just the plot. If you check out the reviews, you would think it was really awful. Some reviews say things like:
“Unfortunately, this is one of the not-so-good ones.”
“Indulgent, empty and absolutely incredible.”
“The plot lacks depth and color, and none of the characters seemed realistic at all.”
These people are wrong! I liked “Nine Perfect Strangers” and have recommended it to several people. At least one of these people read the book and enjoyed it too.
Here’s the difference: I have not read any of Moriarty’s other works. Apparently she usually writes mysteries and thrillers, and this book is not that genre. The negative reviews? They all seem to be from people who have read her other works.
“Nine Perfect Strangers” is a novel with an interesting plot that delivers (unlike James Patterson’s “The Judge’s List”, which missed – someone should tell the one who actually wrote it.) Nine Australians take part in a ten-day health retreat at Tranquillum House, run by the enigmatic Masha and her staff. Things are slowly starting to go sideways, and towards the end some really absurd and funny events have gone down. It’s not Terry Prachett – level stupidity, but it certainly dips a toe in the water.
One of the things I like best about this book is the characters. Each character is so rounded and complete. They have whole lives. These are people I know and I can empathize with them all. They are HUMANS.
The Marconi family: Parents Napoleon and Heather and daughter Zoe. The Marconies are struggling with a huge personal tragedy, and their journey is beautiful and sensitive. Napoleon is my favorite. He is a wonderful character and the only one who has done any justice in the Hulu TV show, played by the hugely talented Michael Shannon. Napoleon is a teacher, Heather is a midwife and Zoe is turning 21.
The Chandlers: Jessica and Ben, the mysteriously wealthy couple who have come to the retreat to save their marriage. Jessica provides some wonderful comic moments, while struggling with deep-seated insecurities and fears that make her more than just a “dumb blonde”. Ben is obsessed with his Lamborghini.
Frances Welty: A famous romance writer who goes through menopause and tries, but fails to publish his latest book. Frances is the most “main character” we get, although chapters bounce around to different POV narrators. Francis is in love with love, and is quite skeptical that the retreat will help her.
Lars Lee: A lawyer who attends various health retreats every January and struggles with problems in his personal life. Lars calls himself a health-retreat junkie and seems to live a bit of a hedonistic lifestyle outside of these January trips.
Tony Hogburn: A grumpy, divorced man who does not understand his grandchildren and hopes to improve his overall health. Tony has a secret past.
Carmel Schneider: A recently divorced woman who is trying to accept her new situation in life, her ex – boyfriend’s new boyfriend and the role that the new boyfriend plays in the daughters’ lives. Carmel is “boringly convinced that she is fat”, and is eager to take on this well-being haven.
Masha Dmitrichenko: The Russian businesswoman who owns Tranquillum House. Masha (pronounced “Marcia” without r) became a wellness guru after a serious medical incident almost killed her. She has perfected her treatment system and is ready to implement an unknown “new protocol” on this group.
Yao and Delilah: Masha’s employees. They are loyal and devoted to the methods and practices of Tranquillum House – but how loyal and devoted?
Read “Nine Perfect Strangers” for some heartfelt, emotional story lines, unexpected twists and a fun, entertaining story. It is a good summer reading for the long, hot days you have nothing to do but read in the sun.
Rating: 9/10 copies of Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman
Christine Simmonds is Assistant Editor of The Courier-Gazette. She is a former English teacher who loves books.