Nine Perfect Strangers is a relatively recent (2018) Liane Moriarty novel. A high powered city career woman, Masha, has a heart attack and is born anew- she loses weight, finds new purpose and opens a small wellness resort in the countryside. The novel follows the arrival of 9 guests who will be staying for a week, all with slightly different backgrounds and goals for the week- there is a couple with marital problems (Ben and Jessica), a writer suffering a crisis of career and life choices (Frances), an overweight divorced businessman keen to feel younger (Tony), an average weight divorced stay at home mom who wants to look younger (Carmel), a lawyer fighting with his husband over whether to have children (Lars), and a couple and their twenty year old daughter (Napoleon, Heather, Zoe), keen to not be at home over the anniversary of their son’s death. Rounding out the guests are Masha’s two staff, Yao and Delilah, with Yao being a hardline convert to Masha’s wellness ways and Delilah focused on more on the paycheque component.
The week starts off like a normal wellness retreat- lots of yoga, guided hikes, calorie-restricted diets and confiscated electronic devices. Things begin to unspool slowly and come to a real head that I won’t spoil her. Along the way, Frances is our main guide and she is a great one- funny, insightful, and almost always optimistic. I also like almost all of the other characters- Moriarty is so skilled at writing funny, realistic feeling characters that you can’t help but like.
This is now an Amazon mini series starring Nicole Kidman, and a lot of the think pieces I saw compared this with the wellness retreat of the White Lotus, and our collective cultural fascination with rich (mostly white) people dealing with their staff. I understand the comparison, and although I can’t comment specifically on the mini series, it didn’t quite ring true for me. I think that’s largely a comment on how likeable Moriarty characters are- you’re rooting for them because you like them, not because you dislike everyone equally and are hoping for chaos (which is what my White Lotus viewing experience was).