Study Guide

Nine Perfect Strangers Transformation

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[Masha] 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. (13.35)

This is the dream right here! Masha is sick of just having a small impact on the lives of her guests. She’s looking for radical and life-altering transformations, and she’ll accept nothing less.

[Lars] never ceased to be amazed by the obedience of people at these places. They allowed themselves to be dipped in mud, wrapped in plastic, starved and deprived, pricked and prodded, all in the name of “transformation.” (15.20)

Lars is a little skeptical of the other guests and their search for “transformation.” But if he’s not looking to change things up, then why has Lars come to Tranquillum House in the first place?

“Make sure it doesn’t change us,” [Ben] slurred, just before they fell asleep that night, and Jessica thought, What are you talking about? It’s already changed us! (16.39)

Money will change a person, but Jessica doesn’t seem to mind. She delights in her new-found lottery wealth. Ben is a little more ambivalent. Not all change is good.

So [Tony] Googled. “How to change …” Google finished the sentence for him. How to change my life. (18.20)

When Tony has a bad visit with his doctor, he decides it’s time to start doing things a little differently. Google provides the path to transformation in the form of reservations at Tranquillum House.

If [Carmel] could transform her body, she could transform her life, and she could move on from her failed marriage. That wasn’t deluded. That was a fact. (21.40)

Oh, Carmel. She honestly believes that changing her body can change her life. By the end of the book, she’ll find that losing weight won’t make her happy. Only a better outlook on her life and her former marriage will change the way she sees herself.

Napoleon, once a believer in self-improvement, had felt an unusual sensation of bitter cynicism. He and his family had already been transformed in ways they could never have imagined. All they needed was peace and quiet, and certainly an improvement in their diets. (26.6)

Napoleon has a pretty good point here. The Marconi family has suffered through a world of change in the last three years. Are all transformations necessarily good?

It was nice when people seemed to truly believe they were “transformed” at the end of a retreat, but Delilah wasn’t quite as evangelical about this whole transformation business as Masha and Yao. (51.9)

And here’s Delilah to throw a splash of cold water on everyone’s path toward total metamorphosis. Delilah is fine with herself and the ways things are. Why would she need to change?

“When they were sentenced to be transported to Australia I bet they were devastated. They probably felt like it was the end of the world. But it turned out to be the making of them. The lowest point of your life can lead to the highest.” (66.20)

Napoleon with another on-point observation. Here he’s talking about the convicts who built Tranquillum House back in the 1800s. They came to Australia as criminals, but they were able to use their skills to build a good life here. Maybe the bad times can actually transform into the good?

Sometimes your life changes so slowly and imperceptibly that you don’t notice it at all until one day you wake up and think: How did I get here? But other times life changes in an instant, with a lightning stroke of good or bad luck, with glorious or tragic consequences. You win the lottery. You step out onto a pedestrian crossing at the wrong time. You get a phone call from a lost love at exactly the right time. And suddenly your life takes a violent swerve in an entirely new direction. (76.17)

Yao is reflecting on his reversal of fortunes after parting ways with Masha. He’s reunited with his ex-fiancée, Bernadette, and has found happiness. Sometimes transformation happens faster than you can blink, and sometimes it’s slow. Yao has experienced both.

“My time behind bars was a transformative experience. I learned so much, and I explain all my experiences in this book, which is available now, in all good bookstores.” (76.33)

Masha is just too much, isn’t she? Sure, she’s not the first person who’s been altered by time spent in the Big House, but we get the feeling Masha is playing up her suffering for the cameras. Nelson Mandela she is not.

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