This is the fourth book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty and I suspect this will be my last. For me, Liane Moriarty has become another shining example of how success as a bestselling author too often results in an author’s dangerous belief in her (or his) own infallibility, coupled with a decline in the quality of your writing. When I finished this one, the first thing I said, literally out loud, was, “Well, that was a ridiculous story!” Generously awarded two stars on Goodreads.
If you look at other online reviews of this novel, you’ll see they are all over the place. But let me at least try to be more balanced.
First, the Pros:
• The premise seems intriguing enough. Nine people show up for a 10-day retreat at a remote spa facility. It’s a varied group, many of whom are looking to shakeup their lives. There’s one young couple struggling to adjust to a big lottery win. Another couple and their adult daughter are working through a family tragedy. There’s a formerly famous athlete and a romance novelist whose career seems to be taking a nosedive. You have a good-looking gay man whose partner is ready to have children. And a middle age mother of four who has recently been dumped by her husband. There’s also the phenomenally fit woman who owns the spa — a Russian emigre who chucked considerable success in the corporate world, after a near-death experience. Lots of drama to work with, right!
• The book has SO many surprises and unusual plot twists that are completely unexpected. Obviously, I won’t give any away, but they will keep you turning each page, because you will want to know what’s going to happen next.
• Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character so you get to observe the retreat from varied perspectives and hear directly from the participants themselves.
BUT, OH the Cons:
• Despite all its promise, it turns out this is definitely NOT a character driven book. It’s completely plot driven. Although the unexpected plot twists start off believable enough, pretty soon they veer into the strange. And then, they become just plain absurd and totally unbelievable. And remember, all of it happens in a time period of less than 10 days.
• Then, in the last few pages, the author offers updates about the retreat participants, explaining what happens to them once the retreat ends. That helps to tie up loose ends. But she also uses this space to throw in some completely new and significant information, some of which isn’t even relevant to the main storyline. More like, surprise for surprise sake.
• Despite all the plot twists and turns, I didn’t wind up caring about ANY of the characters. They simply remained one or two dimensional.
Needless to say, I don’t recommend this one. Unless, of course, you want to see what results when an author apparently determines to create an original novel by piling on as many strange and unexpected developments as she can imagine. Did not work for me.
More about Australian Author Liane Moriarty.
You may be interested in my reviews of other books by Liane Moriarty: