Title: Nine Perfect Strangers
Author: Liane Moriarty
Published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
From the no. 1 New York Times bestselling author of The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies.
The retreat at health and wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.
Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission to reinvigorate their tired minds and bodies.
These nine perfect strangers have no idea what is about to hit them.
With her wit, compassion and uncanny understanding of human behaviour, Liane Moriarty explores the depth of connection that can be formed when people are thrown together in… unconventional circumstances.
‘She’s back’ exclaims the front cover of my proof copy of Nine Perfect Strangers, the latest release from household name and bestselling author Liane Moriarty. If you don’t know who Liane Moriarty is I might mistake you for living under a rock! She is one of Australia’s greatest exports, gracing the illusive New York Times bestseller list many times over. She also has close ties to Hollywood superstars Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, thanks to the HBO series Big Little Lies which is based on Moriarty’s most well known book. So it is safe to say the anticipation bar for Nine Perfect Strangers was set high for me and many readers. Thankfully I am happy to report Moriarty’s eighth novel is one entertaining page turner!
In Nine Perfect Strangers Moriarty takes a slight departure from her popular domestic setting and moves her action to a rural location. Tranquillum House is a health and well resort, nestled in country NSW. This retreat offers a complete transformation experience, a total wellness overhaul. When nine discordant strangers descend on Tranquillum for its renowned ten day package, each has their own reasons and goals to achieve during their time at the resort. To support them during their time is the centre director, a woman with plenty of motivation to keep these nine people on their toes during their time at Tranquillum. But this ten day stay is turned on its head, quite literally, when something big transpires, altering the pathway of each of these guests.
I recently read an interview with Liane Moriarty where she discusses the inspiration behind her latest novel, Nine Perfect Strangers. Moriarty cites a personal interest in the public’s fascination and perhaps preoccupation with wellness retreats, our desire to attain a sense of spirituality and our obsession with self improvement. In some cases, the public can view these wellness centres as a kind of religion. I liked Moriarty’s motivation and her willingness to delve into a world that perhaps we do not know a lot about. I know I personally have never visited a health retreat, so this story was an eye-opener! Moriarty’s new novel sends a jeer in the way of these seductive resorts and our preoccupation with wellness. It is a scathing at times, insightful and a scintillating glimpse into the world of health retreats.
As we have come to expect with Moriarty’s novels, going on the back of the highly successful previous novels, Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret, the characterisation is top notch in Nine Perfect Strangers. Moriarty spends a lot of time laying down the foundations and her scaffolding technique works. We soon build a solid picture of each and every one of the nine perfect strangers. There are a good cross section of players in this novel, from instant millionaires, to success stories, families and more. Moriarty also excels in her ability to show us both sides of the spectrum in this business, we see the workers and owners, as well as the patrons of this enterprise. It is fascinating! Each individual has their own unique journey, but they all converge and come to a head during the life changing stay at Tranquillum.
Although at times the approach to the main subject matter and themes features in Nine Perfect Strangers is humourous and almost whimsical, buried underneath this facade are some serious themes. Moriarty uses Nine Perfect Strangers as a tool to expose issues such as guilt, loss, broken relationships, family politics, self image, wealth and reconciliation. When we think deeper about these issues, they are the everyday problems that ordinary people face in their day-to-day lives. Perhaps this is why Moriarty has such widespread appeal. It is her ability to focus on the normal aspects of human life, in such an accessible and dark humourous way.
Moriarty is quite the plotter and she has quite the directive edge. There are a few plot twists and turns towards to end of the novel, that even now after finishing this book over a week ago, I am not entirely sure how I felt about the finale explosive big reveal. I find myself in a quandary as I am unable to discuss this aspect without venturing in spoiler territory. However, I have had the opportunity to discuss the pivotal final scenes of Nine Perfect Strangers with another respected author and like-minded reader. Our thoughts on this aspect of the novel were aligned. There is a kind of anti climax feeling attached to this part of the novel. I felt it and she did too. However, we both agreed that Moriarty is a fabulous storyteller and her characterisation is second to none!
In all probability, Nine Perfect Strangers will hit the spot for Moriarty fans, it is one cloak and dagger tale that will have you mesmerised from the opening, through to that explosive ending!
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty was published on 18th September 2018 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty visit here.
*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Nine Perfect Strangers, is book #124 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge