Nine people check into a deluxe health resort and spa for various personal reasons. They are promised dramatic results by the resort’s owner, but no one anticipates the morally-questionable things they’ll have to do in order to achieve them. Buckle up, y’all, it’s about to get weird…
Our cast of characters:
- Frances, a (dare we say, washed up?) former bestselling romance novelist, is feeling frantic and perhaps just slightly too dependent on her daily allotment of wine and chocolate.
- Ben and Jessica are a married couple who can’t quite seem to connect after winning a significant sum of money.
- Napoleon and Heather, along with their daughter Zoe, are trying to deal with overwhelming grief after a devastating loss.
- Carmel is obsessed with her weight after her husband dumped her for a woman half her age.
- Tony is a man’s man who’s in a rut. He fully acknowledges that he needs some help—but he’s not exactly thrilled to be at such a frou frou resort.
- Lars is a playboy. Also a wellness junkie. He does what he can to keep his body beautiful. You’re welcome.
The resort is run by Masha, an eccentric and luminous Eastern European woman who had a wake-up call to wellness in her former life as a business executive. She literally died from a heart attack at her desk and was resuscitated back to life. One of her senior resort assistants, Yao, is the paramedic who brought her back.
If this seems like a lot of characters to keep straight, well, it is. Author Liane Moriarty takes pains to develop each of their stories, and it’s a lot of info to absorb. But it’s doable.
Each of the characters is unique and appealing in their own way, though not all are created equal. Frances is supposed to be our anchor, our main, and though I warmed up to her over time, she still annoyed me. I wasn’t impressed with almost all of the male characters either. I kept feeling like I was watching them through frosted glass, never fully getting to know them or understand their true motivations—they were mysteries even to themselves. The only exception was Yao. His backstory (and his weird little obsession with Masha) intrigued me.
By far, the strongest characters in the book are Heather and Zoe, the grieving mother and daughter—which I guess should come as no surprise. Creating believable and lovable, yet troubled and mysterious female characters is where Moriarty excels. Big Little Lies is the perfect example of that.
I had so much hope and expectation for Nine Perfect Strangers. After Big Little Lies, I think we all did. I wouldn’t say that this book is a total disappointment, but it wasn’t all it could have been either. Too many characters and such an outlandish plot meant that the story didn’t hit as deeply as I wanted it to. The book is quirky, fun, and entertaining, yes, but it left me feeling dissatisfied and wanting more. Oh well. I’m still excited for the next one.