Study Guide

Maria “Masha” Dmitrichenko in Nine Perfect Strangers

By Liane Moriarty

Maria “Masha” Dmitrichenko

When we first meet Masha, she’s a high-flying executive who almost dies on us. Next thing we know she’s running her own health and wellness retreats. So who exactly is Masha?

Goddess Divine

Whether she’s leading in the boardroom or in the yoga studio, Masha always projects an image of power and control:

She was so good at this. It was a pleasure to excel.

Interviewers would one day ask, “Were you nervous when you first introduced the new protocol?” Masha would answer, “Not at all. We’d done our research. We knew from the beginning it would be a success.” It might be better to admit to a little nervousness. People in this country admired humility. The biggest compliment you could give a successful woman was to describe her as “humble.”

She looked at her nine guests, all of whom now had their eyes obediently closed as they awaited her instructions. Their destinies were in her hands. She was going to change them not just temporarily, but forever. (13.33-35)

Nothing is more important to Masha than being in charge and getting results. She’s come to Tranquillum House from the world of fast-moving consumer goods, but she never wants to stop innovating. She wants to be the best. In fact, she truly believes that she’s superior to other people. She’s smarter. She’s more determined. She’s all-around better.

We will give her props for not having a Dorito in years. That takes some will power.

The Lonely Island

Masha will need other people to achieve her vision, but we get the feeling she actually doesn’t like other people very much:

Masha’s glittering, glorious future lay ahead and these ungrateful dolts stood in the way of it. Masha had anticipated yearlong waiting lists after the news of their success got out. Prices would rise to reflect the demand. These people had been offered this incredible program for a bargain-basement price and they did nothing but moan. (65.15)

Sure, she recruited Yao and Delilah, but she doesn’t really have any real connection to them. When her son died, she left her husband and younger son because she couldn’t bear to see them anymore and be reminded of her loss.

Nope. Masha knows it’s better to go it alone in this world. Relying too much on people will only bring you failure. These nine moronic guests are not cooperating at all.

Fantasy Island

Okay, so Masha is all about strength and achievement and personal independence, right?

Hmm… not so much.

We think that it’s actually a pretty good act. How do we know? Just look at what her ex-husband says when he recalls how she left their family after her son’s death. Masha isn’t strong at all:

She spoke very calmly, as if this were a business arrangement, and she only lost her temper once, when the man fell to his knees and clutched her and begged her to let them be a family again. Masha screamed into his face, over and over, “I am not a mother! Can you not understand this? I am not a mother!”

So he let her go. What else could he do? She did exactly what she said she would and sent money, more and more each year, as her career became more successful.

He sent her photos. She never acknowledged them. He wondered if she even looked at them and he thought that maybe she did not. She was a woman with the strength to move mountains. She was a woman as weak as a child. (76.53-55)

Masha cannot bear to see her husband and her new child. They’re constant reminders of what she sees as her failure. She believes she’s responsible for her older son’s death, and she can’t stand that she failed him. Masha must move on from this and find success. She must be the best. She must exhibit strength. Even when all she’s feeling is weakness and failure inside.

This is why we feel just a teeny bit bad for Masha. Sure, she drugs and kidnaps her guests without their consent—and that is very, very bad—but she’s been through some stuff. Now she’s desperate to heal her guests in the same way she’s been healed. She wants them to feel that they can begin again and find happiness and success.

Hey, if Masha can go on after this dark night of the soul, her guests sure can.

That said, she totally deserves to go to prison for a very long time.