You know the urge. You want to lose weight, pamper yourself with beauty treatments, and you feel you deserve them because you’ve just been through a horribly stressful time. You need to relax and wallow in the comfort of a top-class health resort.
And in Liane Moriarty’s incredibly witty and naughtily satirical novel, that’s exactly what nine perfect strangers set out to do.
Tranquillum House is a new up-market Australian ‘wellness’ spa enjoying a growing reputation on the internet. Guests enthuse about its remarkable treatments and claim the place has changed their lives. The latest intake of nine strangers is varied in every way. Middle-aged romance writer Frances Weltie has lost her mojo and is suffering cruel reviews. She’s the central character among the other eight, all of whom have suffered trauma or raw emotional problems and want to make a fresh start at Tranquillum House.
Some of their stories are tragic, others more foolish, but Moriarty is masterful at describing deep sadness even while the tone of her book is often playful and very funny.
The owner of Tranquillum House is a Russian woman called Masha – charismatic, beautiful, and deeply alluring. The nine guests are in awe of her and at first find her enormously inspirational – but Masha is flawed. In fact, she’s bonkers and becomes downright dangerous as the story unfolds.
Moriarty’s huge bestseller Big Little Lies, the story of the secret emotional undercurrents in the marriages of a group of well-to-do Australian housewives, became a blockbusting TV series. So, no doubt, will Nine Perfect Strangers – Nicole Kidman is down to star in it. Can’t wait to watch it because this is a fabulous book; funny, tender, and full of emotional understanding. I loved it. I’m sure you will too.
This witty story is understanding about why people place such faith in health spas, but it also takes a satirical look at the entire wellness industry: the claims it makes to transform lives through massage and meditation.
As the increasingly delusional Masha plots to impose ‘radical’ new treatments on her guests to make their lives ever more perfect, the nine get to know each other. Apart from washed-up writer Frances, there’s a has-been soccer player; a selfish gay lawyer with relationship problems; a young couple battling to save their marriage; a desperate mother of four, abandoned by her husband for a younger woman; and a family trying to repair their lives after a suicide tears them apart.
Despite her humour, Moriarty respects the humanity of her characters. Readers can easily connect with their emotional distress. The novel is about spiritual recovery and the transformative experience of human connections. Can they really help someone move on from tragedy and despair? Ultimately, Moriarty’s conclusion is that recovery is indeed possible.
Judy says that Nine Perfect Strangers is her favourite Moriarty so far. It’s certainly a wild ride, unpredictable, outrageous, hilarious, and poignant.