Review by New York Times Review
IF YOU DON'T immediately recognize Liane Moriarty's name, you may remember her novel-turned-HBO-series "Big Little Lies," about the intersecting lives of three women whose children attend the same kindergarten. Juggling that many main characters is the literary equivalent of spinning plates, and Moriarty succeeded in keeping them all airborne. If three characters were good in "Big Little Lies," nine are even better in "Nine Perfect Strangers," about a group of Australians who converge on a "boutique health and wellness resort" called Tranquillum House, all looking to change their lives in some way. The director of Tranquillum House is the domineering and coolly charismatic Masha Dmitrichenko, a 6-foot-tall cross between a guru and a general. Masha promises her guests that their lives will change in 10 days if they follow her program for their "wellness journey," which includes yoga, meditation, diet, a "screenfree environment" and "noble silence." The spa-goers, who obey Masha grudgingly in the beginning, soon start feeling happier and healthier. The perfect foil for the formidable Masha, and the standout spa-goer, is Frances Welty. Frances is a middle-aged romance novelist who's feeling terrible about herself after her publisher rejected her new manuscript, a reviewer hated her latest book and an online con man broke her heart in a catfishing scam. Frances may be down on her luck, and herself, but her warm sense of humor makes her completely relatable. At the pool, trying to impress another spa-goer, "she wanted to convey strength in all her future interactions with this man, and her soft white body ... didn't convey much except 52 years of good living and a weakness for chocolate Lindt balls." Frances describes the mandatory smoothies as "green sludge" and even tries to smuggle chocolate into Tranquillum House, acknowledging: "This was rock-bottom. She'd just licked a Kit Kat wrapper." The other characters are also fully realized, with compelling lives, relationships and motivations. They include a sports marketing consultant, a husband and wife who won the lottery and are trying to salvage their marriage, a health-spa junkie ("I indulge and atone, indulge and atone"), a once-famous athlete and a recently divorced mother of four. An espedally poignant story line follows another married couple, Heather and Napoleon, and their 20-year-old daughter, Zoe, who are all grieving the suicide of Zoe's twin brother, Zach. A subplot like that can veer into melodrama, but Moriarty handles it deftly. For example, when Zoe is asked about her upcoming birthday, she answers simply: "I don't celebrate on that day anymore. I kind of changed my birthday." To divulge what happens next would spoil a major plot twist, though readers are given a tiny hint early on when Masha asks Frances how she likes the book she is reading. "Frances thought about this. The book was meant to be another murder mystery, but the author had introduced far too many characters too early, and so far everyone was still alive and kicking. The pace had slowed. Come on now. Hurry up and kill someone." One of the most satisfying aspects of "Nine Perfect Strangers" is that it is thought-provoking but never pedantic. The novel raises fascinating questions about our relentless quest for self-improvement, why we seek out others to transform us and whether external change causes internal change, or vice versa. Does social media make followers of us all? When does a group become a cult, and why? Moriarty doesn't supply the answers, but trusts her readers to come up with their own, which is just as it should be. LISA SCOTTOLINE'S new novel, "Someone Knows," will be published in April. One character smuggles chocolate into the spa. 'This was rock bottom. She'd just licked a Kit Kat wrapper.'
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [June 30, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review
Moriarty (Truly Madly Guilty, 2016) continues her exploration of characters with comfortable lives who can't help but make themselves uncomfortable. This time she takes on nine guests at a wellness retreat: a romance writer who is fading in popularity; a young married couple; a very handsome lawyer; a teacher, his wife, and their adult daughter; a divorced mother; and a familiar-looking middle-aged man. Tranquillum House, a nineteenth-century mansion in the middle of nowhere in Australia, has been converted to a well-guarded sanctuary, with yoga rooms, fruit smoothies, and an aggressively beautiful leader. Masha Dmitrichenko, emboldened by past success, plans to initiate this group into her new protocol, one that will shake up the wellness world. It's hard to share details, since each reveal is a delicious surprise. Like she did in Big Little Lies (2014), Moriarty uses several narrators to tell the whole tale, and though some story lines get more attention than others, readers will find themselves flipping through the nearly 500 pages. But even at that length, Nine Perfect Strangers is so well written and slyly constructed that it won't feel like enough. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Moriarty's considerable fan base has waited two long years for this one, so be prepared.--Susan Maguire Copyright 2018 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Send a motley crew of hurting but comfortably heeled Aussies to a secluded resort for a pricey 10-day "Mind and Body Total Transformation Retreat" and what happens? In this cannily plotted, continually surprising, and frequently funny page-turner from bestseller Moriarty (Big Little Lies), nothing like the restorative reset they're anticipating. The nine guests at Tranquillum House include middle-aged romance writer Frances Welty, her normal spunkiness shaken by recent personal and professional setbacks, and 20-year-old Zoe Marconi, there with her parents on the anniversary of the family tragedy that shattered their lives. What they haven't reckoned on is Tanquillum House's messianic but precariously stable director, whose secret agenda could be dangerous to their health. It would be unsporting to disclose more about Moriarty's largely endearing cast, since her progressive revelations about them contribute so much toward making this such a deeply satisfying thriller. Moriarty delivers yet another surefire winner. Author tour. Agent: Faye Bender, Faye Bender Literary. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Nine strangers book themselves on a ten-day health retreat at Tranquillim House. They are there for different reasons, including to lose weight, renew a marriage, gain mindfulness, and overcome some of life's obstacles. Starting with a mandated silence, where they are forbidden to look one another in the eye and meals are strictly scheduled, the retreat begins on a peaceful, meditative note. Once the silence is officially broken, and a fast begins, the guests come together in one room for a guided meditation/therapy session with the resort's director, Masha, and her assistants. Then Masha begins imparting her wisdom and a very specific protocol to the nine strangers. After a two-year break, Moriarty (Big Little Lies) is back with this novel that dives deep into the human psyche. In her typical fashion, she constructs relatable characters, each battling their own demons, using the retreat as a way to chase and slay their dragons. The story drags a bit in the middle, but the last third is on fire, with intense issues and a roller-coaster plot that will leave readers breathless with each reveal. VERDICT Fans of Moriarty will love this, but all readers will end up wanting to do extreme research before going on a health retreat. [See Prepub Alert, 5/21/18.]-Erin Holt, Williamson Cty. P.L., Franklin, TN © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Nine people gather at a luxurious health resort in the Australian bushland. Will they have sex, fall in love, get killed, or maybe just lose weight?Moriarty (Truly Madly Guilty, 2014, etc.) is known for darkly humorous novels set in the suburbs of Sydneythough her most famous book, Big Little Lies (2014), has been transported to Monterey, California, by Reese Witherspoon's HBO series. Her new novel moves away from the lives of prosperous parents to introduce a more eclectic group of people who've signed up for a 10-day retreat at Tranquillium House, a remote spa run by the messianic Masha, "an extraordinary-looking woman. A supermodel. An Olympic athlete. At least six feet tall, with corpse-like white skin and green eyes so striking and huge they were almost alien-like." This was the moment when the guests should probably have fled, but they all decided to stay (perhaps because their hefty payments were nonrefundable?). The book's title is slightly misleading, since not all the guests are strangers to each other. There are two family groups: Ben and Jessica Chandler, a young couple whose relationship broke down after they won the lottery, and the Marconis, Napolean and Heather and their 20-year-old daughter, Zoe, who are trying to recover after the death of Zoe's twin brother, Zach. Carmel Schneider is a divorced housewife who wants to get her mojo back, Lars Lee is an abnormally handsome divorce lawyer who's addicted to spas, and Tony Hogburn is a former professional footballer who wants to get back into shape. Though all these people have their own chapters, the main character is Frances Welty, a romance writer who needs a pick-me-up after having had her latest novel rejected and having been taken in by an internet scamshe fell in love with a man she met on Facebook and sent money to help his (nonexistent) son, who'd been in a (nonexistent) car accident. How humiliating for a writer to fall for a fictional person, Frances thinks, in her characteristically wry way. When the guests arrive, they're given blood tests (why?) and told they're going to start off with a five-day "noble silence" in which they're not even supposed to make eye contact with each other. As you can imagine, something fishy is going on, and while Moriarty displays her usual humor and Frances in particular is an appealing character, it's all a bit ridiculous. Fun to read, as always with Moriarty's books, but try not to think about it or it will stop making sense. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.