Book 48 of 52: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I first learned about Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty via the Hulu adaptation. Yes, I’d read Big Little Lies and thought it was fine (perfectly fine!) but not fine enough that I sought out her other books. I didn’t watch the show because it looked incredibly creepy — almost Stephen King-like. It’s a really weird time, and I’m not one to watch horror, so I said no thanks and went on with watching other shows.

But I did pick up a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers when I saw it in a Little Free Library. I’ve long read creepy books because they don’t seem as scary when I am processing it through the written word as images, and I was feeling in the mood for something different. I knew I’d be on my couch for a bit after my bivalent COVID booster (which just gave me a bit of a headache). Why not give it a shot.

Nine Perfect Strangers is about nine people (duh) who check into a Tranquillum House in Australia for a 10-day detox and wellness retreat. The place is run by Masha, a Russian expat who has, after technically dying of a heart attack and was then revived, dedicated her life to wellness. The guests are each looking for help: an outlet for grief, weight loss, help at an abrupt change in their lives, or just a break. Tranquillum House promises to help them reach their goals.

The first few days are normal wellness stuff, and then things start to get weird. The surprise to me is that the book isn’t that creepy. It’s funny in a lot of places, especially when focusing on Frances, a middle aged romance novelist who, right before arriving, is pilloried by a young journalist for writing romance at all, right as her latest book is rejected. Anytime the narrative turned to her, I smiled. Her still generally sunny outlook helped balance some of the more serious guest situations: things like suicide and a really bad case of body dysmorphia (that’s a trigger warning for those who have struggled with negative self talk about bodies. I had to put the book down for a moment).

Once again: it’s fine! I liked it more than Big Little Lies. I may try the show now because I believe it matches the tone of the novel, and I also know what happens. Less stuff to worry about while there’s a lot of other worry going on.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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