Publication date: November 2018
Review, short version: My usual limit is four out of four skunks, but I made an exception for this super stinker.
Review, long version:
When Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers came out, I didn’t need to read the reviews.
I’d enjoyed her previous seven books, and was looking forward to this one.
Early on we meet the lead narrator, Frances, and I liked her immediately. She’s on her way to a high-end, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere health spa because her life was in meltdown.
But that doesn’t keep Frances from being, at turns, wry, funny, wise and foolish. She says and thinks things that are so well put I started writing them down.
For instance, she had to fill out an online questionnaire to qualify as a spa guest, and since Frances thought most of their questions were none of their business, “She cheerfully lied her way through it.”
Frances is a successful romance novelist, but she doesn’t read reviews of her books because “her skin was too thin.” Then she reads one bad review, and “A quite extraordinary pain in her chest radiated throughout her entire body.”
I was right there with her.
Frances is one of those rare women who doesn’t have issues with her weight, and she gets bored with women who do: “The recent weight losers, the thin women who called themselves fat, the average women who called themselves obese, the ones desperate for her to join in their lavish self-loathing.”
“Lavish self-loathing.” So well put, and so true.
So I liked Frances, and I liked how Moriarty introduces us to, and gets us acquainted with, the other eight spa guests in Frances’ group – the Nine Perfect Strangers – along with spa owner Masha, and her staff. Moriarty does such a good job of giving her multiple characters different voices and unique circumstances that I had never had one of those, “Wait – which one is this?” moments.
So I was cruising along, really enjoying the story – especially Frances – until I ran into a brick wall on page 225, half-way through the book.
The nine guests and spa staff are together in a meditation room when the guests discover they’ve just consumed smoothies laced with LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms), courtesy of Masha. Her goal was “heightening the senses” of the guests for their “guided psychedelic therapy.”
WHOA. This is SO not OK.
It’s way beyond not OK, and I was furious. My first thought was of GHB, the date-rape drug that’s also administered without the recipient’s knowledge. My second thought: Slipping anyone any drug without their knowledge is horrible. And illegal.
Yet Moriarty incorporated it as a part of her storyline, and what followed were way too many pages of the various head trips each of the guests is forced to take.
The head trips are followed by Masha and the spa staff leaving, and locking the guests in the room. While they try to figure out how to escape, they’re watched and listened to on monitors by Masha and staff in her office.
First drugging people, and then holding them captive and spying on them – this is Moriarty’s idea of good storytelling?
Now I was both furious and disgusted.
At about page 250 I started skimming, right through the next 200 pages to the end. I couldn’t wait for this book to be over – this book, which I started out enjoying so much. I’ve never had this experience before, to go from such a pleasurable read to truly rotten one, all in one book.
All I could think was, “I’m so glad I got this from the library and didn’t spend $30+ on it.”
Now I decided it was time to read some Amazon reviews, to see if anyone agreed with me. How I wish I’d done this before I wasted my time! Here are some excerpts from the negative ones (and there are 12 pages of them):
- I really disliked this book, and skipped from about the 30% mark to 90% to only know the ending.
- It started fairly well but swiftly deteriorated.
- This book is the first of Ms. Moriarty’s books that is terrible.
- This book is a huge disappointment.
- Wait for reviews before buying her next.
- Oh my goodness, this is her worst book.
- Really awful book.
- This one was awful…a huge letdown.
- Her worst book. Very disappointed.
- I’m shocked Liane Moriarty wrote this.
- Left me incredibly disappointed. I do not recommend this book!
- An utter disaster.
- Absolute rubbish.
- I wanted to love this book, but ended up hating it.
At least I’m in good company.
And I hated it, too.