"Nine Perfect Strangers" by Liane Moriarty
TW for the book: suicide, death and grieving, baby and child loss
I'm finding, the more I consume entertainment and try to create my own, that my perfect subject is something really devastatingly hard and sad, but told in a really funny way. I appreciate an author's voice that is clearly smart and crafty and amused by life's ups and downs, and one who is willing to take us alllll the way down with her characters. I have been trying to read more women's literature, seeing as that's the genre in which I am apparently writing, and I want to make sure I'm not fucking it up. As far as I understand, the only distinction between "fiction" and "women's fiction" is that the protagonists, the main characters who go through the transformation from start to end of the book, are women. So, evidently it's like "fireman" and "lady fireman." It's the same as fiction, BUT PINK.
I had the false impression that "women's fiction" would be all romance novels full of trouser swelling and milky white bosoms, but am thrilled to find out there's a wide range within the genre- similar to how women also vary as a species, so I've heard. I've been finding some brilliant, wild, great, powerful, funny, weird stuff that qualifies as Women's Fiction.
Speaking of romance AND of transformation- this book, "Nine Perfect Strangers" is about nine people going to a very upscale wellness retreat to be "transformed." While the point of view rotates between all the characters- the 9 "guests" of the retreat and the director and staff- it mainly follows a fifty-some year-old romance writer who has recently been unlucky in love and literature. The HULU show based on the book comes out on August 18th and stars Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall, Michael Shannon, Bobby Cannavale, Manny Jacinto, and more! The story slowly unfolds all of the characters' back stories while also diving deeper and deeper into the absurd and damaged psyche of the powerful figure of the spa's director (Kidman). There are drugs! Cucumber juice! Mystery! Character study! And a reflection on grief and how we see ourselves versus the way others see us...all written in a relatable, funny, accessible way. It's so SO good.
If you've read (or seen the HBO show based on it) "Big Little Lies" or read any of her other books, you know she has an ability to describe the mundane details of our normal lives in such a way as to make them feel dramatic, and also to add some SHOCKING big real drama in there at some point, so as to knock us on our arses. For example, in the bio she clearly wrote for herself on her website, it says, "Her first word was ‘glug’. This was faithfully recorded in the baby book kept by her mother. As the eldest of six children, Liane was the only one to get a baby book so she likes to refer to it often."
Funny AND informative. I'm diving head-first into all of her books. Who's with me?
Other authors I've read recently or am reading in the genre are Celeste Ng, Nora Ephron, and Ann Patchett. As always, I'm open for suggestions! And if anyone would care to join me, I'm starting on Nora Ephron's "Heartburn" next.