Study Guide

Tony “Smiley” Hogburn in Nine Perfect Strangers

By Liane Moriarty

Tony “Smiley” Hogburn

Everyone loves a guy with smiley face tattoos on his butt. So it’s no surprise that the other guests at Tranquillum House are over the moon when they find out a professional football player is staying with them. Enter Smiley Hogburn!

Tony may have been a legend in Aussie Rules Football, but when he shows up at this 10-day retreat, he’s just a divorced, 56-year-old former athlete who’s not especially close with his three adult kids. He’s also having a tough time figuring out why life is actually worth living:

“It was just before Christmas, and [the doctor] called me in to give me the results. He pulled out the file and, afterward, I realized I had these words in my head, and I was saying them to myself, and it just … shocked the life out of me that I would think that.”

“What words?” asked Frances.

“I was thinking, Let it be terminal.”

Frances blanched. “And … but … is it?”

“Oh, I’m fine,” said Tony. “Nothing wrong with me, except that I obviously don’t have a healthy lifestyle.”

Frances exhaled. She hoped not excessively. “Well, thank goodness.”

“But it shook me up—that I would think that, that I would hope for a terminal diagnosis. I thought, Mate, how f*****-up is your head?” (53.38-44)

Wow. We thought this guy’s nickname was “Smiley.”

Tony is feeling pretty depressed about lots of normal things. He’s getting older. He’s gained weight. His body isn’t as athletic and spry as he remembers it. And he’s lost touch with many of the people who mean the most to him. It’s a lot to feel bummed about.

But his feelings start to change during his stay at Tranquillum House. Despite thinking Frances is a “loony woman” when he first meets her, he discovers that he actually likes her. A lot. When they’re trapped in the burning yoga studio together, Tony realizes that he doesn’t want to die. He actually wants to take Frances “out for a drink” (68.33). That’s gonna be tough if they’re charbroiled. Luckily, they pull through.

Tony’s relationship with Frances and his near-death experience put things in perspective for him. His relationships with his kids and grandkids improves. He ends up married to that loony woman he met at the insane wellness retreat.

It’s a pretty happy ending for a washed up old footballer.