Study Guide

Nine Perfect Strangers Wellness

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She wondered if [Yao and Delilah] were sleeping together. They’d have such aerobic, flexible sex with all that wellness pumping through their young bodies. It would be just so awesome. (6.135)

Wow. Frances really does have an active imagination. And maybe she’s a little jealous of two people who seem just a little happier and healthier than she is. Just a wee bit.

“Your wellness journey has begun, Frances,” he said, still holding her hand, and instead of smirking Frances found herself close to tears.

“I’ve actually been feeling very unwell lately, Yao,” she said pitifully. (6.196-197)

Poor Frances. She can’t snark her way out of this interaction with her wellness consultant. And this is true; Frances has had a rough go of it lately. We think she deserves some happiness and healing in her life.

It had been a rare and special moment of happiness. Heather knew they would all three have noted it, and hoped it was a sign of something good. (10.9)

The Marconi family has really been hurting since Zach died, so happy moments are few and far between. When Heather experiences one, it feels good to hold onto it for a bit.

Are you in need of significant healing?

That was the opening line on the home page for the Tranquillum House website.

“Yes,” Heather had said quietly to her computer screen. “Yes, we are.” (10.41-43)

If ever there were a family who needed to heal, it would be the Marconis. Perhaps Tranquillum House isn’t the place to do it, but that’s another story…

“On the last day of your stay with us, you will come to me and you will say this: Masha, you were right! I am not the same person I was. I am healed. I am free of all the negative habits and chemicals and toxins and thoughts that were holding me back. My body and mind are clear. I am changed in ways I could never have imagined.”

What a load of crap, thought Frances, while simultaneously thinking, Please let it be true. (11.67-68)

Frances is skeptical that she can ever be truly happy and whole, but she would love nothing more to experience it. After the beating life has given her in the past few months, we can’t blame Frances for feeling wary.

As [Carmel] swam, she silently chanted in time with her strokes: I’m so happy, I’m so happy, I’m so happy, breathe, I’m so happy, I’m so happy, I’m so happy, breathe.

But then that tiny voice beneath the exultant chanting, just the faintest whisper, had begun: I wonder what they’re doing now. (21.6-7)

It’s not the best start to your vacation when you have to convince yourself that you’re feeling happy and energized. Of course Carmel misses her daughters. They’re off having a dream vacation with their dad and his new girlfriend. But she’s pushing herself to feel joyful and great when she’s feeling...anything but.

Masha nurtured Yao like a sick bird. She cooked for him and taught him meditation and yoga. They learned tai chi together. They were alone in that house for three months. They didn’t have sex but they shared something. A journey of some kind. A rejuvenation. During that time his body changed; it hardened and strengthened as his mind healed. (22.43)

Oh, Yao. So this is how he got introduced to wellness…and the magic of Masha. It made him feel happy and healthy and wonderful. Who wouldn’t be intoxicated by these emotions? And this woman?

The new Yao slept throughout the night and woke up in the morning refreshed. The new Yao no longer thought obsessively about his fiancée in bed with another man. The new Yao rarely thought of Bernadette at all, and eventually completely eradicated her from his thoughts. The new Yao lived in the moment and was passionate about “wellness,” inspired by Masha’s vision for Tranquillum House. (22.45)

Whoa. The new Yao sounds like an awesome guy. Or a brainwashed wellness robot. 

[Napoleon] could find hatred in his heart for her, too, if he went looking for it. The secret of a happy marriage was not to go looking for it.

He saw his wife’s thin arms curved up toward the sun to “master its life force” and his heart filled with painful tenderness for her. She could not heal and she refused to even try. (26.48-49)

The death of his son has been a crushing blow for their entire family, but Napoleon has consciously chosen to heal. Heather, on the other hand, had decided to keep all the anger inside. It’s a reminder that wellness is a choice. Not something that simply happens.

In [Masha’s] research, she had read of the hedonic treadmill theory, which said that people returned to a certain pre-set level of happiness regardless of what happened to them, whether it was very good or very bad. Her husband had been a simple happy man whereas Masha was a complex unhappy woman. (65.57)

Masha probably suspects she’ll never achieve true happiness and wellness. She’s simply not built for it. Then why does she keep trying to achieve greater and greater successes?

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