When Liane Moriarty writes a book, I'll be the first to buy it. As the author of the wildly successful Big little lies – as well as some of my other favorites like The love story of the hypnotist and What Alice forgot – Moriarty is a master of the wonderfully relatable characters and the tension when turning the pages. That's why I'm so excited that your latest novel, Nine perfect strangersis being adapted as a Hulu miniseries by David E. Kelly and Nicole Kidman. This novel is about a unique health resort run by Mascha (played by Kidman) that includes nine unsuspecting guests. The film also features Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Bobby Cannavale, Regina Hall and Samara Weaving.
If you're as excited as I am about this gripping new release, take some time to read (or re-read). Nine perfect strangers. While the customization may differ from the upcoming miniseries, there could still be similar plot points. Here's a refresher on what's going on in the book below!
Meet the characters
Nine perfect strangers starts from Yao's perspective. He's an aspiring paramedic treating an obese bigwig named Masha who was in cardiac arrest and had to be rushed to the hospital. Ten years later, we're introduced to 52-year-old Frances Welty, a former bestselling novelist who suffers from back pain, a terrible cold, and depression after finding out she was just betrayed by her fake internet boyfriend named Paul. She is on her way to a relaxing retreat at the Boutique Health and Wellness Resort called Tranquillum House. Frances, along with eight other guests, signed up for the ten-day Total Transformation Retreat for Mind and Body.
Lars Lee is a 40-year-old divorce lawyer and junkie who regularly participates in a wellness routine. Always struggling, Ben and Jessica Chandler are a young couple who have decided to retreat in search of their marriage. Ben is obsessed with sports cars and Jessica is obsessed with looks, and they both have a hard time getting along after winning the lottery. Napoleon Marconi, his wife Heather, and their daughter Zoe are a big, beautiful family who are at the resort together to survive the anniversary of Zoe's twin brother, Zach, who died of suicide. Carmel Schneider is a 39-year-old divorced mom of low self-esteem young children as she shares her children with her ex-husband and new girlfriend. Tony Hogburn is a grumpy 56-year-old divorced man who doesn't talk much to his kids and is here for weight loss.
Also at the retreat are the therapist Jan, the wellness consultants Yao and Delilah, and the director Marsha Dmitrichenko, who is now fit and healthy and believes she has died and reborn after her cardiac arrest. She loves running the health retreat but hates that clients keep coming back. She decides to try something new with this group to help them find the healthy way forward with a new protocol.
About the withdrawal
Tranquillum House seems a bit strange to Frances from the start. Her pockets were searched and all her emergency wine and chocolate were confiscated. Her blood was drawn as part of an extensive medical exam and she is a little concerned about the five days of "noble silence" that all guests will have to attend to clear their minds. Guests meet with Masha in their guided meditation in a room with no windows or natural light, which Frances describes as a "dungeon in a secluded lot with a group of strangers, at least one of whom was a serial killer." the last bit was definitely over the top (the man was gruff and offered to help her in the middle of one of her hot flashes) it's a bit creepy. Masha lets guests know that as they leave they will be different people, with unexpected changes and Surprises along the way.
At meals, each guest receives a different meal that is tailored to them, as well as smoothies that are delivered to them throughout the day. On the first night, guests are woken up in the middle of the night for a mediation in the starlight, followed by a tai chi class at dawn, walking meditations, exercise, healing massage, more guided mediations, yoga and free time. When the staff meet to discuss the next steps, Yao is ready to do whatever Masha wants because he's secretly in love with her, while Delilah worries a little more about it.
Things get strange (uh)
When the silence ends on the fifth day, the guests finally introduce themselves. They recognize Tony as a former athlete and Zoe reveals that her brother hanged himself. Then Heather realizes something is wrong and asks Masha if she treated her. Mascha admits that she "microdosed" a tenth of a normal dose of LSD to her guests in order to increase their creativity, focus and spiritual awareness and to lower their inhibitions. But the last smoothie she gave guests had both a dose of LSD and a liquid form of psilocybin known as "magic mushrooms," and she gave Ben and Jessica ecstasy. Guests are about to begin the next level of experience they have never had before, called psychedelic therapy.
All thoughts get jumbled and confused, and the wellness consultants instruct guests to lie down and put on headphones with classical music. The guests appear to be on a breakthrough, with Zoe and Heather admitting they felt responsible for Zach's death, Ben and Jessica kissed, and Carmel began to appreciate her own body image. But nothing is as Masha planned when things change. Jessica reveals that she is pregnant, Napoleon is furious about his family's secrets, and all the guests wake up to find that they are locked in the meditation studio.
After the guests have fasted for 48 hours and locked in the room, Delilah decides to grab their belongings and leave. She feels weird about drugging the guests and knows that all "breakthroughs" are fabricated and not real. So she takes Ben's Lamborghini and escapes. Meanwhile, Mascha and Yao are becoming increasingly frustrated that the guests are not having a transformative experience like they did when they tested this therapy. They also failed to solve the puzzle that will allow them to escape.
When Frances thinks about looking up, they discover a hidden package in the rafters. There is a Russian doll inside, but the last doll is missing. From Masha's office, where they are watching the guests, Yao is confused as to why the last doll with the code is not there. The guests should discover it, escape and be invited to a feast where they can all share their experiences. Instead, Masha had a revelation and decided that she would like the guests to surrender and accept that there is no solution to their situation. She believes that the only way to help them is and she creates a "dark night of the soul" that they must go through in order to be born again.
Dark night of the soul
The lights suddenly go out and everyone is scared when Masha greets them on a large video screen. Yao slumped from not moving on Masha's desk, and she tells everyone that Delilah has left – so the nine guests are alone with Masha. She tells them that they will play a game called Death Sentence, in which they will have to pretend they were sentenced to death on death row and they have a chance at mercy and will have to fight for their lives. She then gives each guest a lawyer who defends them in front of Mascha.
Back in her office, Masha reflects on her past and her eleven month old baby, who died in his cot many years ago, and the pain it still causes her. She is hurt and not herself because she also took LSD. She feels insane and has a hard time telling the reality from her journey without someone watching over her as Yao is sedated. She takes out a cigarette lighter and plays with it while listening to the guests struggle for their lives. Just before the video screen goes black, she asks them if they can smell the smoke.
Guests collect towels to wet them as they prepare for a fire that will soon devour them. They panic when they hear the fire above them. As they crouch in the corner, they notice something strange: the sounds of the cackling fire repeat themselves over and over again. It sounds like a recording – there is no real fire! Frances decides to try the door again and it opens. It has been unlocked and they are free.
Happily ever after
Since there is no fire, all nine guests simply walk out the door and up the stairs. Yao comes up to them with a huge platter of fruit and lets them know that they have prepared breakfast. Everyone is confused, why is they acting so normal? Then Masha appears and Heather starts threatening her, so she attacks her with a letter opener. Napoleon jumps in front of her and Frances drops a candelabra on Masha's head to stop her. A policeman appears – it's Jan, the therapist's friend. She called him because she had strange suspicions about Tranquillum House after asking the rest of the staff to leave in the middle of the retreat. More police officers appear and discover illegal drugs on the premises. An ambulance takes Masha to the hospital. Because it's late, the guests spend another night throwing an impromptu party for Zoe with cake, pizza, and wine.
Jessica later discovers she is not pregnant and she and Ben divorce amicably. Realizing that she doesn't really miss her ex-husband, Carmel gets along with his new girlfriend, who works with her on a parenting plan to help the children and bring some relief to Carmel. Lars decided to have a baby with longtime partner Ray. Frances starts writing again and decides to try a relationship with Tony. Zoe and Heather seem more at peace, and Napoleon has seen a psychiatrist to help him overcome his depression. After 14 months in prison, Yao is happier with his own 2-year-old daughter. Masha rose to fame after writing a book about her experiences and is now secretly running bespoke programs. Eventually, Frances and Tony get married, and Frances' latest book is a hit and gives her the happy ending it deserves.