Review – Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty


Nine Perfect Strangers
by Liane Moriarty

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 464 Pages

Release date: November 6, 2018

Synopsis: 

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

rating

four

Nine Perfect Strangers seems to have really mixed reviews on Goodreads, and while I really enjoyed it, I can absolutely understand why it didn’t work for some people. The first half of the book felt like a bit of a slog. The pacing is seriously off, and weirdly enough, the novel almost seems almost self-aware and defensive about it. One of the major characters is a novelist who muses early on about her editor constantly nagging about pacing, seeing this as indicative of an epidemic lack of patience in modern society. Am I reading too much into this passage? Maybe. But it was a kind of surreal experience to have a fictional character lecture me about readers being too picky about pacing in a novel that takes forever to get moving.

This is structurally different from other Moriarty novels I’ve read, which typically alternate between two timelines, hinting at a big reveal about something that happened in the middle of the two, while taking ages to get there. Nine Perfect Strangers is told from beginning to end, with backstories peppered in through conversation rather than flashbacks. I actually liked this change of pace and I think Moriarty avoided the pitfall of her novels starting to seem too formulaic by mixing this up.

There’s also this weird blend of madcap absurdity and serious plot points. Based on other reviews, the zany bits drove some readers over the edge, but I didn’t mind these. The crisis in this book will absolutely strain your suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. It’s ridiculous and darkly funny, but if you’re able to just run with it, the story is a lot of fun. It does have the effect of making the novel kind of tonally odd, however. You have this over-the-top scenario unfolding whilst the characters are dealing with very real emotional turmoil over various painful endings: death, divorce, and fading careers.

The two major characters are clearly Frances (washed-up romance novelist struggling with menopause) and Zoe (20-year-old mourning the death of her twin brother.) While there are other characters that Moriarty spends a lot of time attempting to develop, none of the others every really feel like they quite get there. Frances and Zoe feel fleshed out and real while all the others feel like a rough sketch. The other characters being less developed isn’t so much a problem in and of itself; it’s the sheer amount of time devoted to all of these characters for little payoff. I feel like a lot of the pacing issues came form Moriarty trying (and failing) to fully develop the entire cast of characters, when that really wasn’t necessary.

This review feels like directionless rambling, but it’s kind of difficult to put my thoughts on this novel into words without giving away the whole plot, and you really need to watch it unfold yourself to appreciate it. Nine Perfect Strangers is a truly weird book with a sometimes unbelievable story, but I had a great time on this roller coaster of a novel with Frances and Zoe.

CW: Suicide plays a major role in the plot of this novel.

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Thank you for reading! Have you read any of Liane Moriarty’s books? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Review – Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty

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Truly Madly Guilty 
by Liane Moriarty

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Length: 415 Pages

Release date: July 26, 2016

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Synopsis: 

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

rating

three

This was my second Liane Moriarty book, and perhaps Big Little Lies was simply too tough an act to follow. There were a lot of similarities between the two books, but I think Truly Madly Guilty‘s fatal flaw is in the pacing. The whole book hinges on what happened one evening at a neighborhood barbecue; Moriarty leaves the reader in the dark about what this horrific incident was, and in the end, the buildup feels truly out of proportion to the reveal. Honestly, 100 pages could have been cut from this book and I don’t think it would have suffered for it.

That being said, there was a lot to like in this book. Moriarty tackles a variety of social issues, from mental health to gender issues and the intersection between them. Several characters in Truly Madly Deeply suffer from mental health issues throughout the course of the story; Moriarty does a good job of illustrating how these tend to be overlooked in men, or worse, viewed as a sign of weakness.

…The terrible thought occurred to her that perhaps she’d always unconsciously believed that because Sam didn’t cry, he therefore didn’t feel, or he felt less, not as profoundly or deeply as she did. Her focus had always been on how his actions affected her feelings, as if his role was to do things for her, to her, and all that mattered was her emotional response to him, as if a “man” were a product or service, and she’d finally chosen the right brand to get the right response. Was it possible she’d never seen or truly loved him the way he deserved to be loved? As a person? An ordinary, flawed, feeling person?

There is also a character who is former sex worker; she is a former stripper and not ashamed of her past, but she is grappling with the complicated emotions that come from feeling that she’s done nothing wrong while still worrying about how her past may reflect on her child in a posh new school environment.

Moriarty digs deeply into the complicated psychology of many of her characters, and that’s where she truly shines as an author. Even the grumpy old neighbor from across the street gets a chapter, and while it moves the plot forward, its real purpose is to give us a chance to empathize with a character who felt irredeemable and one-dimensional prior to that moment. He doesn’t suddenly become a knight in shining armor, but he becomes painfully human.

The two main female characters, Erika and Clementine, both have moments where they are intensely unlikable. Erika is uptight and judgmental; Clementine is resentful of a sense of obligation to be friends with Erika, who has no other friends. They are sometimes selfish and unkind. At the same time, they are written as women with hopes and dreams and loads of love in their hearts, and it’s never hard to empathize with them. I like that Moriarty is able to write these complex, flawed women in a way that feels raw and genuine. It’s easy to finish a Moriarty book feeling like you’ve met a new friend, and it’s terribly satisfying to spend time in these women’s heads.

There is no special protection when you cross that invisible line from your ordinary life to that parallel world where tragedies happen. It happens just like this. You don’t become someone else. You’re still exactly the same. Everything around you still smells and looks and feels exactly the same.

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Coming soon from Liane Moriarty…

nine

Nine Perfect Strangers 

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question. ”

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