Top critical review
What a disappointment
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2018
NINE PERFECT STRANGERS is two books in one: the first, filled with eccentric characters, wry humor and promise for intrigue; the second, utter tedium. What a grand idea for a plot, I thought, as I was introduced to nine people about to embark on inside-and-out makeovers at a stunningly beautiful house in Australia. Frances, the washed up romance novelist; Jessica and Ben, in their new Lamborghini; Lars, the drop dead gorgeous divorce lawyer; Tony, the retired Aussie footballer; Carmel, the weight-obsessed mother; and the Marconis, a seemingly ordinary family of three: all, for reasons of their own, signed up for a ten day stay at Tranquillum House.
Sheer heaven, the strangers anticipate, until they learn the strict rules they must obey during their stay. No electronics; no talking; no alcohol and almost no food, Masha, the owner, makes clear. Is this a health spa or psychological warfare, the guests wonder, as they are stripped of all contraband.
As the strangers interact during their first couple days, Lianne Moriarty has me smirking. She confirms my pathological fear of whole-body wellness spas. Why anyone would pay a small fortune for ten days of misery has always intrigued me, and I discover that many of the Tranquillum House guests are asking the same questions. Their stories emerge, often through internal dialogue, and it is no surprise to me that each character is in crisis of some degree.
And then things get weird, as the saying goes; I could hardly wait to find out what happens next (and next). The tension continues to build, and - boom - the suspense drops like a heavy weight in what I call Book Two. I quickly became bored by the characters and the outlandish plot. Frances in particular gets on my last nerve as she whines with each retelling of her past. I DON’T CARE became my internal dialogue. Determined to reach the denouement, I used my ancient Evelyn Wood speed reading expertise to skim through 200 pages.
This book has such great potential for an entertaining read. Until Book Two, I loved the characters and their siege-like situation. The dark humor had me laughing, and my fear and loathing of wellness centers was vindicated. Lianne Moriarty seemed to have lost her way somewhere in the middle of her story. At certain points, I thought there were too many characters; in others, I wanted new ones to stimulate my interest. Lianne Moriarty can do much better.