Liane Moriarty’s latest novel, Nine Perfect Strangers, is classic Moriarty.
It’s filled with people who may have perfect-looking lives. But behind the facade is a roiling, disintegrating mess.
The story begins with nine people who go to a retreat, trying to heal what is broken within themselves. Each is laden with emotional baggage. A couple on the verge of a breakup. A family wrecked by suicide. A failed writer. A former athlete. A divorcee. An overworked attorney. Led by the eccentric but commanding Masha, they congregate at the resort for several days of R & R.
Nine people push the limits a bit on how many characters we can really get to know and keep up with. We don’t really get to know all of them until about halfway through the book. A good amount of time is spent on fleshing out their stories and personalities, taking away from the story.
But then, the storyline goes completely off the rails.
And I don’t mean a little bit off the rails. I mean completely off the rails.
Moriarty introduces elements of suspense and surprise into her books. It’s her thing and she does it very well. But the twist in Nine Perfect Strangers is just weird.
I have no patience for extended dream sequences or drug trips. The character floats around in La La Land and it doesn’t advance the story. It often serves as little more than cotton candy-filled page filler.
Here, it seems like we’re supposed to be left with the question of whether the dreamy sequence (I’m being intentionally vague) actually works, but I’m left with bigger questions. Why were there no punitive damages? Why would a micro experience lead to a macro reaction? There are just so many things about this book that leave me saying, “Huh??”
She brings it back a bit at the end. It’s nice to see where the nine former strangers’ lives go. But we have so many characters to keep up with that we only get snapshots. Frustratingly underdeveloped snapshots.
Moriarty struck gold with Big Little Lies. The Husband’s Secret is wonderfully hand-wringing. Nine Perfect Strangers, though…not my favorite.
Nine Perfect Strangers
By Liane Moriarty
Published November 2018