Study Guide

Carmel Schneider in Nine Perfect Strangers

By Liane Moriarty

Carmel Schneider

Despite her name, Carmel’s life is anything but sweet when our story begins.

Carmel arrives at Tranquillum House hurting from a recent divorce. It seems her husband decided that he wasn’t attracted to her anymore and he’d like to trade her in for an upgrade. We’re paraphrasing:

“I’m so sorry. I still care very deeply for you, but we’ve always valued honesty in our relationship, haven’t we?” Joel said to her a year ago, while he poured her a glass of wine. “It really hurts me to say this but, the thing is, I’m just not attracted to you anymore.”

He truly thought he was being kind and ethical. He believed himself to be a man who did the right thing. He would never have cheated on her. He simply left her, went straight onto a dating website, and replaced her. His conscience was perfectly clear. He’d always liked to keep his possessions well maintained, and if they couldn’t be repaired to “as new” then he updated them. (21.27-28)

Yup. Sounds like a douche.

So Carmel is left to raise four small children without the shallow husband she was planning on spending the rest of her life with. And she feels really bad about it.

Carmel blames her body for betraying her. Sure, she’s had four kids, but she should have done more to maintain her look. Maybe if she’d kept things fit and trim, Joel wouldn’t have left her for someone younger and hotter. She doesn’t actually think this retreat at Tranquillum House will help her get Joel back. But if she’s able to drop some weight, Carmel can at least show him what he's missing.

Revenge fantasies are powerful, y’all.

In the end, Carmel learns to accept her body as is. The drugs help with that a bit. She also remembers her former life in private equity, and realizes that there’s more to her than just the mom life. And she has a big revelation about her marriage to Joel:

She realized that Joel wouldn’t even notice any difference in her. You never changed your appearance for men, you changed it for other women, because they were the ones carefully tracking each other’s weight and skin tone along with their own; they were the ones trapped with you on the ridiculous appearance-obsession merry-go-round that they couldn’t or wouldn’t get off. Even if she’d been a perfectly toned and manicured gym junkie, Joel would still have left her. His “lack of attraction” had nothing to do with her. He hadn’t left her for something better, but for something new. (75.25)

That dude is no good. Bravo, Carmel.