I’ve always wanted to read one of Liane Moriarty’s books but never have. I feel as though she’s an author who’s been read by everyone and it’s taken me this long to take the plunge. So instead of starting from her first, I’ve started with her latest, Nine Perfect Strangers.
The title more or less gives it away – it’s about nine individuals who have come together in a health retreat hoping to get well. They get much more than they bargained for – a true transformation which will change their lives forever.
I’ve actually never been to a health retreat. The descriptions of the health spa were intoxicating and I almost felt like I was there luxuriating in the massages, gentle walks, Tai Chai and delicious food and I was just about ready to book myself into one. Half way through the story though things got interesting as the challenges each of the nine faced was ramped up a notch or two.
The characters, and there are at least eleven, are largely white and middle class and I didn’t find them particularly likeable. I could forgive that I didn’t feel too much for the characters – just like when you go to a party or a conference, you get to know people but don’t have to actually like them – that is kind of what I felt about them all. The switch between their point of view meant that we stayed with them just enough. There was however, a bit too much repetition about their backstories which I found a little tedious. For example, we’re told on numerous occasions that Carmel has four children and thinks she’s fat even though she isn’t. I didn’t find her particularly engaging as a character and the change in her came a little too late for me. Like Carmel, none of them really developed the way I’d hoped. Frances was the one character who we grew to know a bit more than the others and although a bit wacky, I didn’t warm much to her either.
When the owner of the resort, Masha goes rogue, I unconsciously rolled my eyes. Masha, a supposedly strong, determined yet narcissistic woman has demons which begin to play out in weird ways. The story twists into an almost unbelievable farce which I found a little hard to swallow. There’s quite a bit of commentary about body image and the author does tackle mental health issues particularly suicide which all seemed at odds to the bizarre turn of events. Perhaps this story didn’t go far enough. I won’t give away spoilers but it takes an almost comic and predictable turn nicely tied up neatly at the end, which funnily enough, was exactly what I wanted.
This is an easy and quick read and although not a literary masterpiece would be an ideal, very light, holiday read. Have I booked a health retreat yet? Nah, somehow I don’t think it’s me. Would I try another book from this author? Yep, probably just to compare it this one.