A secluded retreat for stressed-out people complete with the promise to change your life in just ten days, pricy and exclusive and just what the doctor ordered for our willing candidates?
I am a fan of Liane Moriarty, she is one of those authors that has a real eye for shining a light on everyday situations and letting her readers see how absurd they are. In Big Little Lies she took the school gates as her starting point, this time we move to the more exclusive setting of a retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House which promises total transformation for those who sign up. This story is completely bonkers but very entertaining.
Tranquillum House is run by Masha, a women we met in the prologue having a heart-attack in her corporate office. Masha is a Russian who moved to Australia as a young woman and following her near-death experience she has become evangelical about saving others from themselves. All the bad things are banned, including any electronics and replaced with healthy smoothies, massages, mindful walking and light fasting.
The first guest we meet is romance author Frances who is not only menopausal but has just had her latest book rejected, readers are falling out of love with romance and she’s obsessing about a bad review. She herself had a thriller in her bag, one which over the days at Tranquillum House she finds less than thrilling… it seems that Liane Moriarty knows her audience!
She is joined by rich young things Ben and Jessica, who come complete with a Lamborghini for him and various surgical enhancements for him. They have signed up for couple counselling in a bid to save their marriage.
There is a family of three, parents Napoleon and Heather along with their twenty-one year old daughter Zoe who are all cloaked in sadness, the cause of which is revealed later in the book. An aging football star Tony, a health junkie Ben and a divorce lawyer Lars complete the guest list. They are all in, and then Masha reveals the start of her innovative treatment plan.
Believe me the thought of being on a retreat doesn’t really appeal to this reader under what I imagine are normal circumstances but this one takes an ominous tone right from the start when the guests are given their orders so perhaps a healthy wariness and lack of funds is a good thing!
This is really a character study, not only of the guests, but of the owner and her chief of staff, former paramedic, Yao. With the guests under the spotlight and in the prime location to reveal their hopes and fears there is so much room for the author’s trademark wry humour, the poking of fun of those earnest health-junkies is tempered by some life-stories that can’t help but tug at the heart-strings! This book should be approached with the aim of enjoying the ride. I said earlier, it’s bonkers, it is but a well-written bonkers book that yet had one foot in reality reflecting society as well as the differences between the generations and one that had me chuckling in delight at regular intervals. If you can’t afford a retreat to make changes in your life Nine Perfect Strangers will go some way to giving you the best medicine, laughter.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK for allowing me to read a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers prior to publication on 4 October 2018. This unbiased review is my thank you to them, and the author for such an entertaining read.
Other books by Liane Moriarty