Nine Perfect Strangers – Knox County VillageSoup

After a brief hiatus to focus on annual newspaper responsibilities, Book Babe is back to review “Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty.

This is a wonderful novel that is the unfortunate victim of a Hulu adaptation starring Nichole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy. I do not think the series did justice to the story, and that is truly unfortunate. If you have to choose between the two, read the book.

“Nine Perfect Strangers” is a really fascinating book for a number of reasons, and not just the plot. If you check out reviews, you would think it was truly terrible. Some reviews say things like:

“Unfortunately this is one of the not-so-good ones.”

“Indulgent, vacuous, and completely unbelievable.”

“The plot is lacking depth and color and none of the characters seemed at all realistic.”

These people are wrong! I really enjoyed “Nine Perfect Strangers” and have recommended it to several people. At least one of those people read the book and also thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here is the difference: I have not read any of Moriarty’s other works. Apparently, she usually writes mysteries and thrillers, and this book is not that genre. The negative reviews? They all appear to be from people who have read her other works by her.

“Nine Perfect Strangers” is a novel with an interesting plot that delivers (unlike James Patterson’s “The Judge’s List,” which missed the mark — someone should tell whoever actually wrote that one.) Nine Australians attend a ten-day health retreat at Tranquillum House, run by the enigmatic Masha and her staff. Things start slowly going sideways, and by the end some truly absurd and amusing events have gone down. It is not Terry Prachett level silliness, but it certainly dips a toe in the waters.

One of my favorite things about this book is the characters. Each character is so well-rounded and complete. They have entire lives. These are people I know, and I can empathize with all of them. They are HUMAN.

The Marconi family: Parents Napoleon and Heather and daughter Zoe. The Marconis are struggling with a huge personal tragedy, and their journey is beautiful and sensitive. Napoleon is my favourite. He is a delightful character and the only one done any justice on the Hulu tv show, played by the massively talented Michael Shannon. Napoleon is a teacher, Heather is a midwife and Zoe is about to turn 21.

The Chandlers: Jessica and Ben, the mysteriously wealthy couple who have come to the retreat to save their marriage. Jessica provides some fantastic comedic moments, while also struggling with deep-seated insecurities and fears that make her more than just a “dumb blonde.” Ben is obsessed with his Lamborghini’s.

Frances Welty: A well-known romance author going through menopause and trying but failing to publish her latest book. Frances is the most “main character” we get, even though chapters bounce around to different POV narrators. Francis is in love with love, and is fairly skeptical that her retreat will help her.

Lars Lee: A lawyer who attends different health retreats every January and is struggling with issues in his personal life. Lars calls himself a health-retreat junkie and appears to live a bit of a hedonistic lifestyle outside those January jaunts.

Tony Hogburn: A grumpy, divorced man who does not understand his grandchildren and is hoping to improve his general health. Tony has a secret past.

Carmel Schneider: A recently divorced woman trying to accept her new lot in life, her ex-husband’s new girlfriend and the role that new girlfriend is playing in their daughters’ lives. Carmel is “boringly convinced she is fat,” and is eager to take on this wellness retreat.

Masha Dmitrichenko: The Russian businesswoman who owns Tranquillum House. Masha (pronounced like “Marcia” with no r) became a wellness guru after a serious medical event almost killed her. She has been perfecting her system of treatment and is ready to implement an unknown “new protocol” on this group.

Yao and Delilah: Masha’s employees. They are loyal and devoted to the methods and practices of Tranquillum House — but just how loyal and devoted?

Read “Nine Perfect Strangers” for some heartfelt, emotional storylines, unexpected twists and a fun, entertaining story. It is a good summer read for those long, hot days you have nothing to do but read in the sun.

Rating: 9/10 copies of Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman

Christine Simmonds is the Assistant Editor for The Courier-Gazette. She is a former English teacher who loves books.

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