Study Guide

Nine Perfect Strangers

By Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers Introduction

Have you been feeling well?

No, Shmoop isn’t asking if you’ve had a cold lately. (Though we’d be sad if you did.) We’re wondering about your overall wellness. That’s more than just keeping the sniffles away. Wellness is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” Let us know if you get there. We’d like to join you.

Wellness is what the characters in Nine Perfect Strangers are seeking when they visit Tranquillum House for their 10-day health retreat. Over the course of the story, these nine guests will do lots of unusual things in the name of “transformation” and “evolving their well-being.”

Spoiler alert: they don’t get to look at their iPhones for over a week, and that’s not even the worst thing that happens to them. Not by a long shot.

Liane Moriarty wrote Nine Perfect Strangers, in part, as a satire of the wellness industry. She’s said in interviews that she’s always surprised how obsessed people—including her—get about wellness and self-improvement. No one can be content with how they are. They’re always striving for more and more.

Honestly, panicking about wellness can really stress a person out. And then you need a day at the spa to relax. It’s a vicious cycle.

Moriarty does have a point. Globally, the wellness industry is actually worth about $4.2 trillion. Yes, that’s trillion with a “T.” That includes “wellness tourism” like the folks at Tranquillum House enjoy. It brings in $639 billion per year. Wow. Masha, the owner of Tranquillum House, must be making a pretty penny.

But if folks need ways to de-stress from the day-to-day realities of the world, who are we to judge? Even Liane Moriarty recognizes the allure of the wellness industry. Who wouldn’t want to decompress with a nice massage after a long day? Who doesn’t enjoy custom-made meals? Mindful yoga practices? Smoothies laced with psychedelic drugs? Near-death experiences that force you to rethink the meaning of your life?

Oops. We’re pretty sure those last couple aren’t actual wellness techniques. Then again, once you get to Tranquillum House, you’ll find they have a different definition of wellness.

Namaste, and good luck.

What is Nine Perfect Strangers About and Why Should I Care?

Everyone has problems. We’re guessing even you’ve got a problem right now.

Maybe it’s just that your candy bar got stuck in the vending machine and you didn’t get to eat your Twix. We hate when that happens.

The guests at Tranquillum House have problems, too. Can you sympathize with them?

  • There’s a young couple that won the lottery.

  • A handsome and successful young lawyer in a happy relationship.

  • A recently divorced mother who’s successfully co-parenting her kids with her ex and his caring new girlfriend.

  • A famous author who’s not sure if she’ll publish her nineteenth novel or not.

  • A former athlete who runs a successful sports agency.

  • A family vacationing together to commemorate the death of a beloved family member.

#firstworldproblems, right?

But if you look below the surface, you’ll see this:

  • The lottery winners are considering divorce.

  • The handsome lawyer doesn’t know whether or not he wants kids.

  • The divorced mom misses her family and feels totally insecure about her body and her new life.

  • That famous author’s sales are lagging, reviews are poor, and she may never publish another book again. Did we mention she’s also twice divorced and recently lost money in an online romance scam?

  • The former athlete wants to die.

  • The vacationing family is barely holding it together as they all harbor guilt over their loved one’s death.

Whoa.

Nine Perfect Strangers does a good job of showing us characters that seem otherwise wealthy and healthy and happy and whole. Then the author breaks down their lives to show us their true issues. It’s easy to make judgments about people when you first see them. What obstacles could lottery winners possibly face? But it’s a lot harder to empathize with people and see their troubles as they see them. To each person, their issues are important and life-changing.

It’s like your candy bar dilemma. Sure, you only lost some candy. But it was your candy. And it would have tasted so good with all that caramel and milk chocolate. Plus, there are two bars, so when you finish the one, there’s another bar just waiting…

Nine Perfect Strangers Resources

Websites

Author, Author!
Read all about Liane Moriarty and her books on her official website.

Movie or TV Productions

Headed to Hollywood
Nicole Kidman is set to produce and star in a screen adaptation of this novel. Looks like she really has a thing for Liane Moriarty books.

Articles and Interviews

New York Times Review of Nine Perfect Strangers
If three characters were good in Big Little Lies, then nine are way better, according to the good folks over at NYT.

Washington Post Review of Nine Perfect Strangers
They like it…but think it’s a little slow paced. Looks like someone needs a counseling session with Masha.

Liane Moriarty Interview
The author talks with The Guardian about feminism, diversity, and how it’s tricky to be a writer these days.

Video

Writerly Wisdom
Liane Moriarty reveals her inspiration for Nine Perfect Strangers. Hopefully it’s not based on a real-life vacation.

Liane Moriarty on CBS This Morning
Why did this big superstar author set her book at a luxurious resort? So that she would get to do a lot of research.

Audio

G’day Book Mates
A short excerpt of the audiobook for Nine Perfect Strangers. Personally, we can’t get enough of the Australian accent.

Images

Cover Gal
Never judge a book by its cover. Well, unless the cover has Masha on it.