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Nine Perfect Strangers: 7 Big Differences Between The Book And The Hulu Series

Nine Perfect Strangers Frances points as she drinks some water.

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Hulu's trippy Nine Perfect Strangers miniseries came to an end after what was certainly a transformative experience for the retreat-goers at Tranquillum House. Nicole Kidman led an all-star cast as Masha, the ethereal leader of the retreat who claimed to have the unique solution to help her guests, including Melissa McCarthy’s Frances, transform their lives. The limited series was based on the book of the same name by Liane Moriarty, who also wrote Big Little Lies. And just like the HBO series that came before it, Nine Perfect Strangers made some big adjustments in its adaptation for television.

Spoilers ahead if you haven't watched the full miniseries on Hulu!

The structure of Liane Moriarty’s book facilitated the need for a lot of the changes. In the book, the nine Tranquillum House guests spent the first five days in silence, and where the series showed Masha leading the retreat-goers in activities like digging their own graves, the book itineraries were far more basic — pre-dawn Tai chi, hiking, spa treatments, etc. It wasn’t unexpected that those aspects would be ramped up for the sake of a viewing audience, but there were quite a few other liberties taken with the characters and their backgrounds. Here are seven big differences between the Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers and Liane Moriarty’s book.

Nine Perfect Strangers Masha smokes a cigarette before being shot.

Masha Was Not Shot In The Book; She Changed Her Life After A Heart Attack

Prior to opening Tranquillum House, Masha was an unhealthy workaholic in the corporate world when a life-changing event forced her to re-evaluate her priorities. In the record-breaking Hulu series, Masha was shot in the parking garage as she left work. But, in the book her lifestyle change was precipitated by a heart attack from being overweight and inactive.

Other details of Masha’s past were also changed in the adaptation, including the details of her child’s tragic death. Her infant son’s fatal crib accident in the book became her young daughter getting hit by a truck while riding her bike for the series.

Nine Perfect Strangers Carmel looks confused.

Masha And Carmel Had No History Prior To Tranquillum House

While Carmel’s husband had been unfaithful to her in the book and left her for a younger woman, there was no affair with Masha. Carmel had no history with Masha prior to her stay at Tranquillum House. And, just as the book had no shooting for Carmel to be responsible for, there were also no threatening texts. That storyline from the series seemed to parallel one in the book where Masha’s ex-husband was sending her emails that, unbeknownst to her, contained photos of their first grandchild.

Carmel did not attack Masha in the book thinking she was her husband’s girlfriend — she didn’t attack Lars either, for that matter. Carmel’s tendencies toward rage were added for the series.

Nine Perfect Strangers Napoleon hears the word of God while he's high.

The TV series showed the Tranquillum House guests figuring out pretty early on that Masha was putting something in the smoothies, which gave them the opportunity to consent thereafter to the increased dosages. In contrast, the retreat-goers were unwittingly being micro-dosed with LSD for the whole first half of the book. By the time they figured it out, the nine “strangers” had already consumed a full dose of psilocybin and were locked in a yoga studio for Masha’s new protocol.

Remember that scene in the series finale where some of the group are locked in a room with a simulated fire? That was the setting for pretty much the whole second half of Liane Moriarty’s book. After their magic mushroom trip — which was monitored closely by Masha, Yao, and Delilah — the guests remained locked in the studio and spent much of the latter part of the book trying to escape as Masha descended into drug-induced madness and made them think there was a fire.

Nine Perfect Strangers Zoe and Heather react to seeing Zach

Masha Never Tried To Reconnect With Her Deceased Child

While Masha did use drugs in the book, she did not partake with the hopes of reconnecting with her dead child. In the series, Masha somewhat bullied the Marconis into the protocol for her own personal benefit, thinking Zoe was the key to linking them to their departed loved ones.

The book, however, like the miniseries, did show the Marconis being able to connect with their son and brother, Zach, during their magic mushroom trip. In the series, only the Marconis were able to see and communicate with Zach, but in a cool moment from the book, Frances, who was on her own mushroom-induced journey at the time, looked over at the Marconis and wondered who the boy was who was sitting with them.

Nine Perfect Strangers Lars documents Marconis on cell phone camera

Lars Was A Divorce Lawyer, Not An Investigative Journalist

Lars had no hidden agenda for being at the retreat in the book. The series added the journalist plotline, where Masha gave him a cellphone to document her new protocol of using psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. In the source material, Lars was a divorce lawyer and health retreat junkie, who — like in the series — was trying to escape the pressures of his boyfriend, Roy, wanting a child.

Nine Perfect Strangers Tony, Lars, Frances and Ben run for the door.

The Mysterious Death Of A Former Guest Was Added As A Red Herring

Another plot line added solely for the Hulu series was the death of Aaron Connolly, a previous guest at Tranquillum House who had died while undergoing the same protocol as the Marconis. Mentions of him sprinkled throughout the eight episodes served three purposes: viewers wondered if his family could be the ones threatening Masha; it gave valid reason for a journalist to be sneaking around; and it made us question if the drugs Masha wanted to give the Marconis were, in fact, safe. These all turned out to be red herrings, as Masha said from the beginning that Connolly died from a pre-existing condition and had nothing to do with the goings-on at Tranquillum House.

Nine Perfect Strangers Ben and Jessica welcome guests to Tranquillum House

Ben And Jessica Split Up In The Book

Most of the characters saw similar endings in the book and the series, with all of them having a transformative experience that benefited them, despite the unexpected journey that got them there. Frances and Tony got together; Lars told Roy he wanted to talk about having children; Carmel came to terms with the end of her marriage; and the Marconis found some closure.

Ben and Jessica’s end game was pretty different, though. Both the series and the book showed the couple’s revelation that despite winning the lottery, they weren’t happy not working, and needed to continue contributing to society somehow. The series rectified this by showing them taking over Tranquillum House together. But, at the end of the book, the couple actually gets divorced. Jessica was auditioning for The Bachelor (to boost her followers, naturally), while Ben — whose sister’s drug addiction was briefly mentioned in the series — bonded with Zoe over the untimely deaths of their siblings.

Even though the Nine Perfect Strangers Hulu series strayed from Liane Moriarty’s book quite a bit, it all came together in the end. I enjoyed seeing all the characters ultimately find the transformative experience they were looking for. Don't forget to check out our 2021 fall TV schedule to keep up with the premieres of all your favorite shows.

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.