When I think of a luxury wellness resort, I conjure up images of calm and serenity. I see spa treatments and carefully curated, nutritious meals. I imagine yoga, meditation, and an overall sense of peace. In short, it sounds like a perfect break for a mother of four.
But “luxury” and “wellness” can be subjective adjectives; one person’s vision of this may be drastically different than the next. In the wrong hands, a wellness resort can be a less than pleasant experience.
In “Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty, we read about a week at Tranquillum House that turns sour for its guests and provides unexpected results and experiences for each of these strangers.
Each of the strangers is visiting for different reasons.
One guest is Frances, a middle-aged woman whom was victim of an internet-romance scam. She also is in the midst of a stagnant career as a romance author. She is chatty and overly friendly; she can be a little irritating in her naivety; but her warmth and sense of humor resonate with the reader.
Three of the strangers are a family: Napoleon, Heather, and Zoey. They have chosen to partake in a wellness retreat after a tragedy. Zoey’s twin brother committed suicide, and the family has been left questioning why and how this could have occurred. Their visit coincides with the anniversary of his death; all three are hopeful that these questions and emotions will be brought to fruition during their stay.
The other guests range in age and background. There is a lawyer/wellness spa junkie; a couple who recently won the lottery and are struggling with the effects of this on their life and marriage; an aging sports star turned sports marketing consultant; and a divorced mother of four. No matter what the reason for their individual stay, these strangers are hopeful for a relaxing, transformational stay.
But the most prominent character in “Nine Perfect Strangers” is Masha.
Masha is a domineering woman and the director of Tranquillum House. She was a Russian immigrant who found success in the corporate world. Yet after an early-life heart attack and near death experience, she changes her life. She builds Tranquillum House with the mission to help others to transform their lives.
She promises each guest life-changing results during their 10 day wellness journey, and her intentions appear genuine. Her demeanor is tough and strict, yet each of the guests follow her rules in the hope of some transformation. The rules and practices seem extreme; there is even a five day period of silence. The guests follow these with little resistance.
But suddenly, the wellness program takes a turn.
The guests find themselves in a dangerous situation. Without revealing too much of the story, we learn that Masha is not who she seems. Her ideas of transformation and wellness are corrupted and downright sinister. The nine strangers must band together to escape Tranquillum House. And in this journey, all guests find some of the things they were seeking during their stay: resolve, acceptance, strength, and absolution.
So the real question remains: Was this a successful wellness resort?
Our club had mixed opinions. We could all agree that the methods of Tranquillum House were extreme and at times unethical. On the other hand, the nine strangers were able to fulfill some of their initial goals for their stay. They all survived their experience and came out stronger because of it. Does this mean that the experience was a success? In an extreme “look on the brighter side” view, it was.
This book was a longer read than expected, and it was a little slow for the first third. However, the intrigue picks up, and Liane Moriarty delivers another successful read. “Nine Perfect Strangers” was a funny, suspenseful book that does not disappoint.
Come back next month as we read “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean.