Study Guide

Nine Perfect Strangers Summary

By Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers Summary

Our story centers on a formerly best-selling author, Frances, and the eight strangers she meets on a 10-day health and wellness retreat at Tranquillum House. Whew. Just reading that makes us green with vacation envy.

When Frances arrives at the retreat, she learns that, in addition to not being allowed coffee, wine, junk food, or cell phones, the guests will also not be permitted to talk to each other for the first five days. Well, that wasn’t in the brochure, but at least it means no awkward small talk during dinner.

During a meditation session on the first day, the guests meet Masha, the director of Tranquillum House. She tells her guests about her near-death experience—her staff members, Yao and Delilah, can vouch for her because they were there. This important moment transformed her life and led her on the path to health and wellness. Cool.

What Masha’s nine guests don’t realize is that they are part of a new wellness protocol she’s implementing during this retreat. See, Masha is tired of changing people temporarily. This time, she’s going to transform her guests’ lives permanently. And it will be glorious. Mwahahaha.

After the silence is broken on the fifth day, the guests begin to share more about their lives. Besides Frances, there’s Ben and Jessica, a young couple struggling to save their marriage after winning the lottery. Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Napoleon, Heather, and Zoe Marconi, who are grieving the loss of a member of their family. Lars, a divorce lawyer who’s pretty certain he never wants to have kids. Like ever. Tony, a former football player who needs to lose weight and find a reason to live. And Carmel, a newly-divorced mother of four young children still stinging from the loss of her marriage. They’re quite the bunch.

It doesn't take long before the group discovers that there's something a little...off. Holy health and wellness, Batman! Masha has drugged them! She's put LSD in all their smoothies as part of a revolutionary new therapy to fast track their transformation. Okay, this definitely wasn’t in the brochure.

Now the nine guests have no choice but to lie back and experience "psychedelic therapy" with Masha and staff as their guide. The next morning, they wake up and find they’re all locked in the yoga studio. Masha has prepared a team building exercise for them. But even when the group finds the package Masha and staff have left, there’s no door-unlocking code inside. Curiouser and curiouser.

Masha, Yao, and Delilah are watching all of this on a CCTV. Yao and Delilah think it’s time to stop holding their guests prisoner, but Masha doesn’t agree. Radical transformation can be painful. Delilah bails on Tranquillum House and Masha sedates Yao when he deviates from her plans. Now it’s just Masha driving this crazy train.

Masha appears on the TV screen in the yoga studio and tells her nine guests that they’re going to play a game—Death Row. The guests will each defend another and explain why that person should live or die. Masha will be the judge. Whoever loses will...well, they'll see.

Inside the room, the guests are beginning to panic just a little bit. Finally Masha appears again to judge the results of Death Row. But instead of playing the game, she reveals that she’s decided to burn down Tranquillum House with them inside. All right. That’s it. This place is definitely getting one star on TripAdvisor.

The guests eventually figure out that Masha is bluffing when the smoke in the room doesn't get any worse and the crashing and burning sounds they’re hearing keep repeating. They open the (now unlocked) door to the yoga studio and rush out. Masha is arrested and serves jail time for being absolutely off her rocker. Also for breaking about a billion laws. Justice at last.

Given all this madness, the story has a surprisingly happy ending. Frances and Tony wind up married. Jessica and Ben get divorced, but are living their best lives anyway. Lars decides he wants a baby after all. Carmel makes peace with her divorce. And the Marconi family learns to manage their grief just a little bit better. Hey, maybe Masha was actually good at this whole transforming-people’s-lives thing?

Nah.

Masha eventually gets out of prison and writes a book about her experiences. She starts a new secret health and wellness program that definitely does not involve psychedelic drug therapy and near-death experiences in order to invoke powerful transformations in her clients. The waiting list is very long. Wink, wink.