Originally published January 5, 2019
Everyone has a handful of go-to authors. Even just one. But they are the writers you know will entertain with every new book.
Liane Moriarty is on that list for me. I’ve been a fan since “Three Wishes.” And while “Nine Perfect Strangers” may not be perfect, or my favorite (I think that honor still sits with “The Husband’s Secret“), it was a great way to kick off a new year of reading and a page turner, for sure.
In the case of “Nine Perfect Strangers” Moriarty gives herself plenty of room with which to draw multiple compelling narratives. This may be, for me, the book’s pitfall in that with so many storylines, the details only go skin deep with a few of the characters.
After a life changing heart attack, Masha has left the corporate hamster wheel to own and operate a wellness resort based well outside Sydney. She’s a bit on the stereotypical side when it comes to what you picture of a wellness resort honcho — perfect form, flowing caftans, serene-but-still-a-little-icy notion of a stare … readers discover that you can take the girl out of the corporate world but you can’t really take the corporate world out of the girl. She’s got big hairy audacious goals for her wellness regime. And in this case, she’s testing out her latest dangerous tweak to her regimen on nine perfect strangers:
- Frances, a maybe, maybe not frumpish (She’s charming but also a hot mess) 50-something author that’s looking for some respite and a course correction on her life which has stalled with a book rejection and a scam of a love story;
- Jessica and Ben, married youngsters trying to reconnect after a lottery win took their lives off the rails;
- Napoleon, Heather and Zoe, a devastated family of three that is supposed to be a family of four;
- Tony, a former footballer in need of some direction when it comes to his health and happiness;
- Lars, a divorce lawyer with his own set of Daddy issues; and
- Carmel, a divorced mom trying to negotiate new boundaries for herself.
Based on the descriptions above, that should clue you in as to who is a main character and who is not. Thus, my issue with the book. Frances gets the lion’s share of attention and that’s OK — I enjoyed getting to know her. The same goes for Jessica and Ben, and Napoleon, Heather and Zoe. These story lines feel pretty fleshed out and I was genuinely interested in their outcome. The remaining three felt a little unfinished, perhaps playing more minor roles in support of the larger story.
Masha has help with her scheme in the form of an ex-paramedic named Yao who happened to be on call when she keels over from the heart attack that spurred this journey, and Delilah, her former and current assistant. It’s the same thing with these two — we learn a lot about Yao, but not so much about Delilah, who honestly could be one of the most interesting characters if Moriarty breathes a little more life into her. Seeing as this has been optioned for a movie or TV, maybe she’ll get the chance.
“Nine Perfect Strangers” is a perfectly good time and great for a long weekend or getting all hygge by the fire. I’d love to know which character you’d like to learn more about!