Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Liane Moriarty's star has been in ascendance over the past few years with her hugely popular book Big Little Lies being turned into an HBO TV show with a powerful female cast of Hollywood big hitters and readers lauding her books both old and new. When I spotted a beautiful hardback copy of her newest release Nine Perfect Strangers in a local charity shop I knew I couldn't resist a chance to delve into her writing once again.
Nine Perfect Strangers started out really well, we follow a group of, as the title says, nine strangers who all check into a health retreat that promises to change their lives forever. We have author and recent catfish victim Frances as our main protagonist as she checks into Tranquillum House in order to deal with her own self-doubt over her writing abilities, her recent heartbreak, and a bad back. The book is told mostly through the eyes of Frances as she meets the other guests and staff of Tranquillum House, most notably it's the strange and enigmatic owner who seems to have all the answers to her guest's troubles even if her approach seems somewhat questionable.
As we delve into Frances' life and troubles and learn about her and her fellow guests I was really enjoying this book. It had a delicious people watching vibe to it. I felt I was getting a glimpse into different worlds of the guests and wondering just how it was all going to be connected because as readers of Moriarty's novels will know there is often a twist. I liked the people I was reading about, as we learned more about them they were all redeemable and in the main likable and I wanted the book to continue uncovering the layers of their stories until they began to either heal or in a twisty way, merge.
Then around just over halfway through that thing happened where the twist came. Yes, Moriarty was doing it again and giving us something we hadn't expected. The only problem this time was it was just bizarre. It went from being quite a credible book to one that left me really quite amused that I was meant to take this seriously. It felt like a disjoint in the book and I'd suddenly slipped into a different book altogether where an almost Dr. Evil type character ala Austin Powers had crept in where everything was 'groovy baby'.
The only thing that really kept this book on track after this point was the great job Moriarty had done prior to the twist in establishing her characters stories and their personalities and the fact we knew they were all redeemable people. This meant we could put aside what had happened and still root for them. Right through until the end when we follow them past Tranquillum House we want them to achieve the happiness they all sought at the start of the book and this keeps you reading and does provide a somewhat satisfying end to the story.
I know this book has received some very mixed reviews and so I was perhaps not totally shocked by the odd twist this one provided but when held up alongside Moriarty's other work this one did fall a little short if only because the shock factor was just a step too far to be believed.