Continued analysis of Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers as part of the DIY MFA Writer Igniter Reading Challenge. For more details click here.

The inciting incident happens fairly early in the novel during chapter six. Frances has arrived at the Tranquillum House. This is an external thing (a wellness retreat) that Frances has chosen to attend.

However, she is having some reservations about this choice now that she has arrived. During her tour of the property, Frances jokes with her wellness coach Yao about whether or not she’ll last the whole ten days.

“I might go home early.”

“No one goes home early,” said Yao serenely.

“Well, yes, but they can,” said Frances. “if they choose.

“No one goes home early,” repeated Yao.

NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty

Later in the tour, Yao mentions that there will be daily blood tests. As Frances is about to say she’d like to opt-out of the blood test, he pricks her and takes her blood anyway.

Both of these incidents exemplify Frances’s doubt about this new external situation. The specific point at which Frances chooses to commit to the retreat happens at the end of chapter 6. Frances’s tour ends at her room and Yao hands her an unappealing-looking smoothie.

Smoothie photo by Alisha Mishra from Pexels

Frances looked at it doubtfully.

“The smoothies are mandatory,” said Yao kindly. It was confusing because you’d think from his tone that he’d said, “They are optional.”

NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty

Frances is still strongly doubting her commitment level, but when she takes her first sip and is surprised by how good it is, she is committing to the retreat. She is showing her agency in this decision by drinking. Although this seems a little contradictory because Yao had stated it wasn’t optional.

Frances’s decision is solidified a few pages later when she looks around her room and instead of experiencing “that inevitable moment of solitary traveler gloom” her “spirits lifted.”

Personally, I think she’s been drugged, but either way, I think this is Moriarty’s way of indicating Frances’s commitment to her choice about being there and hence, her inciting incident.

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