Study Guide

Yao in Nine Perfect Strangers

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Even before Yao comes to Tranquillum House, he wants to help people. As a paramedic, he’s part of the team that saves Masha’s life. Then Masha saves him right back:

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. He became someone else entirely as he experienced a kind of peace and certainty he’d never known in his life. He shed the old Yao like dead skin. (22.43)

Masha asks Yao to come work at Tranquillum House during a low point in his life, and he’s all for it. Yao is terrified to make mistakes and see himself as a failure, while Masha is full of confidence and totally larger-than-life. He’s drawn to Masha because she’s everything he’s not. What can we say? Opposites attract.

When Masha asks Yao to try her new psychedelic therapy, that’s when Yao really loses his negative inhibitions. During his LSD trip, Yao finally realizes that he doesn’t need to be so stressed about making mistakes anymore.

That’s his first mistake.

Yao truly wants to create an authentic health and wellness experience for the guests at Tranquillum House. His heart is actually totally in the right place. But he’s also willing to follow Masha off a cliff by going along with her plan to drug and imprison the guests against their will. It’s not his brightest move.

The enchantment is finally broken when Yao realizes that Masha has no intention of letting her nine guests out of the yoga studio unless they prove they’ve undergone the radical transformation that will make her protocol a success:

“We are doing something extraordinary for these people, Yao,” said Masha.

“I’m going to let them out,” said Yao, but there was no conviction in his voice.

“No,” said Masha. She lifted her hand tenderly to his neck, careful not to reveal the silvery glint of the syringe. “No, you’re not.” (59.46-48)

To her credit, Masha refuses to send Yao to jail for his part in their little drugging and kidnapping scheme. We think it’s the least she could do as the mastermind and all. By the end of the book, Yao finds himself happily married and with a baby. Things have worked out pretty good for him.

All it took was getting far, far away from Masha.

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