Nine (im)Perfect Strangers

Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty

Warning … LOTS and LOTS of MAJOR SPOILERS within!

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Pop quiz: what two things do all of these words have in common? Funny. Intelligent. Exquisite. Powerful. Brilliant. Superb. 

Answer: 1) they all appear on the back cover as reviews for the book and 2) they are the opposite of what the book is. I think this must be one of those situations where these are excerpts of reviews where they are actually prefaced by words like “not” or “look elsewhere if you want a book that is”. Stephen King is even quoted as saying “funny and scary”. STEPHEN KING! Maybe the context of his review was “it’s scary how not funny this book is”.

There were so many things wrong with this book that it’s hard to know what bit was the worst.

Was it when the director of the health spa secretly micro-dosed everyone’s smoothies with LSD so that they could all experience spiritual awakening, and all nine of the guests just became righteously indignant but didn’t think they should immediately run away and perhaps alert the authorities? Or when she then locked them unknowingly in a windowless, unlit studio without any food for three days (same reason)?

Maybe it was the constant repetition from the female characters about how they wanted to lose weight, or else how they couldn’t understand why “women always want to lose weight” even when they are a normal weight? Either way, there was an awful lot of repetitive crap about “women” and “weight loss” from an author who seemed to be suggesting women shouldn’t be talking about this as much as they are. I dare you to read this book and not come away thinking you need to go on a diet.

Speaking of superficial female body-image issues, a strong contender for worst part of the book is the transformation of the spa director from frumpy, middle-aged, smoking-addicted heart attack victim into tall, svelte, muscular, super-hottie who glides around the resort wearing billowy white outfits. Gack!

And no list of badness would be complete without the scene where the immensely overweight former football player saves the day by jumping off the backs of two other resort attendees and leaping 12 feet into the air in order to (successfully) recover a package from the rafters that might contain a key to the locked door.

[correction here – I seem to have mis-remembered. It seems the hefty football player actually fell short of his leap, spraining his shoulder in the process, and a different character knocked the package free with a water bottle toss. This would be slightly more believable if the football player didn’t go on a short time later to do a bunch of push-ups with his bad shoulder]

However, the clear winner for me was the family of three – father, mother and their daughter – who were spending the week at the resort as a means of coping with the third anniversary of the death of their son. This hit a little too close to home to read about in a bad novel that used the tragedy as a plot device. It made me sad, and offered little hope or enlightenment in return (heads up for my neighbourhood friends – maybe steer clear of this one.)

It makes me wonder if Liane Moriarty peaked at Big Little Lies? Not sure I’m going to read anymore of her books to find out.

Rating: Skip it. Go have a piece of chocolate and feel good about yourself instead.

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