Not gonna lie, if Liane Moriarty releases a book, I’m going to read it. The fun thing about listening to this on Audible was that she’s had the same narrator for a few books, so it feels familiar in all kinds of ways.
Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…
Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.
Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?
It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.
I have to admit, this was definitely not my favourite of her books. There were some great scenes in it, and a whole swathe of characters that I loved getting to know. But there’s not a lot of plot here. It’s all character-driven. Each of the nine residents at the super-resort Tranquillum house, plus the staff there, are on their own journeys, and have more to admit to themselves than they would like. But nine main characters (ten, really, because the Director is also a character) is a lot to keep track of, and some of them didn’t really get the time or attention they deserved.
I particularly liked Frances, and felt like she was the main character. Her scenes late in the book, where she’s dreaming (sort of) were very fun, although they had no regard for the fourth wall whatsoever.
I was also deeply traumatised by Napoleon, particularly his monologue in chapter 26. It was so bad I actually had to turn it off, because I was crying, and it was probably dangerous for other people on the road with me (I listen mostly in the car). His and his family’s story was definitely the best part of the book, but parts of it felt unresolved near the end.
I liked the idea of a health resort, and aspects of it were great, but the plot in the climax went utterly wild and incomprehensible, as well as not really justifiable. I felt a little like I had taken LSD while listening to this, and not in an enjoyable way.
My main complaint about Nine Perfect Strangers, though, was the pacing. Although almost all character-based development, there was a lot of plot squashed into the final parts of the book, and really not a lot of time given to it. The closing chapters of the book just kind of wrapped everything up neatly in a bow, and I was left feeling quite rushed and a little dissatisfied by it.
I really don’t think this is Moriarty’s best work, although there are some achingly brilliant chapters in there. A very mixed bag.