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Arts in Review

Ms. Moriarty delivers another win

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Liane Moriarty is no stranger to continuous and increasing tension throughout her novels, and Nine Perfect Strangers is no exception. Set in Australia, we are acquainted with nine  individuals who travel to an exclusive health resort, the Tranquillum House, in order to experience healing and revitalization in their lives. Many are dealing with emotional and relational pain as well as physical dissatisfaction. Once their 10-day retreat commences, the staff take actions which cause us to begin questioning the legitimacy of the resort. As increasingly peculiar episodes take place at the resort, like a forced five days of silence, we find ourselves fearing for the guests’ wellbeing. The guests are as confused as we are, and begin to fear for their lives as they realize they are trapped in the resort.

Moriarty takes turns changing the perspective used through each of the 70-something chapters to include the perspectives of all the characters in the novel. I was very impressed to find that while following along with the nine unique individuals’ perspectives (plus the three resort staff) I was not confused or overwhelmed with keeping their stories straight. This was because, often, the nine were experiencing the same external situations, conveniently avoiding multiple complex storylines which might cause the reader any further confusion. The author also helps us keep each character separate in our minds by gradually introducing each person’s perspective, which often comes along with their past and present struggles. For example, we only hear from Carmel’s perspective (one of the nine strangers) once we’re 150 pages deep because by this time Moriarty has established most of the characters and knows her audience is ready for another to keep the plot moving.

Usually, I prefer a shorter novel (350-400 pages max) because I find once they get longer than this, I lose interest and get antsy to move to a new book. Nine Perfect Strangers is 450 pages long. At first glance I wasn’t incredibly excited to drag myself through a book of this length, but surprisingly enough, my attention was captured from beginning to end. Even though the majority of the book occurs over the course of six days, each little detail Moriarty includes is profitable to the development of the story. For instance, Moriarty quickly mentions that one of the guests slips a bottle of wine in her bag for the retreat. Later on that bottle of wine is used to bring the guests together for a toast which bonds them before they part ways. She keeps us entertained and enticed all the way through with cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, many concluding with a hint that slowly reveals who the enemy of the Tranquillum House is.

Like in most of her other novels, each character’s storyline comes to a satisfying close. Even though it’s nice to know that each character learns and evolves after the traumatic events at the Tranquillum House, I continue to wish that everything didn’t end in sunny skies and sweet fruit. Even though a divorce occurs (spoiler alert) between a married couple at the retreat, the divorce is amicable even though it seems more likely there would be bitterness between the two in their situation.

For many, I assume the book’s happy ending works nicely with the tense and rigid plotline that takes place throughout the majority of the novel. But for me, it seems too painless to tie off the characters’ stories so tenderly. I expected the story’s conflict to at least trickle through some characters’ lives to the end. Regardless, I was captivated and enticed throughout, and would recommend this book for entertainment and a riveting escape despite the lackluster ending.

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