Confession: I’m a huge fan of Liane Moriarty’s work and have read almost everything she’s written. Her characters’ interior monologues are deep, detailed, and full of juicy secrets. She lets the reader get to know them gradually, as one would with a new acquaintance. And her perfect pacing compels the reader along to the conclusion.
When the nine strangers–both men and women– show up for a ten-day retreat at Tranquillum House, a remote Australian health resort, they bring their expectations, beliefs, motivations, losses, flaws, and secrets with them. With the promise of a complete transformation, they submit to the conditions outlined by the mysterious, perhaps slightly sinister director, Masha. Meditations, massages, individually prepared meals, hikes on the beautiful grounds. Pretty great, right? The caveat? No caffeine. No sugar. No alcohol. No technology. And for the first five days of the retreat, no talking. Their bags have been searched and contraband items confiscated.
See what I mean about Masha? Her weird machinations only increase as the retreat progresses until the guests believe their lives may be in danger.
Here’s a sample of the guests’ thoughts as the retreat progresses.
“There was some sort of malfunction going on with how fast the earth was spinning. Decades went by as quick as years once did.”
“I don’t get the obsession with strangers,” her first husband, Sol, once said to her, and Frances had struggled to explain that strangers were by definition interesting, It was their strangeness. The not-knowing. Once you knew everything there was to know about someone, you were generally ready to divorce them.”
“Heather had grown up starved of love, and when you’re starved of something you should receive in abundance, you never quite trust it.”
“He could find hatred in his heart for her, too, if he went looking for it. The secret to a happy marriage was not to go looking for it.”
“He didn’t think it was helpful for parents to know just how much bad luck was involved in the loss of their children; that perhaps all they’d needed was a well-timed interruption, a phone call, a distraction.”
“She had not realized that grief was so physical. Before Zach died, she thought grief happened in your head. She didn’t know that your whole body ached with it, that it screwed up your digestive system, your menstrual cycle, your sleep patterns, your skin. You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.”
“She was not really starving, but she was yearning; not so much for food, but for the ritual of food.”
This book reminded me a little of Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty in which each character obsesses that they are the one at fault when something awful happens at a party. Recommend.