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7 Endearing Stories Where Perfect Strangers Come Together

September 9 2021
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Are you as obsessed with the new miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers as we are? Were you a fan of the original, page-turning Liane Moriarty book? Here are seven book recommendations hand-picked to appeal to you. These titles all feature that ever-satisfying alchemy of a group of disparate strangers coming together under unusual circumstances. While not everyone may find inner peace, they all will be changed. By turns funny, suspenseful, inspirational, and haunting, these stories about unusual connection and unexpected pleasure are sure to keep you on your toes.

Together We Will Go
by J. Michael Straczynski

Mark is going to die. After getting his diagnosis, the thirty-year-old plans a cross-country trip, at the end of which he plans to drive off a cliff. In a junky bus driven by an army vet, Mark finds himself collecting anyone else ready to end it all. His new travel-mates include a coder with a heart defect, a bipolar neo-hippie, a young woman with a chronic pain disorder, and another woman bullied for her weight. While the end is in sight, the journey they take to get there will prove to be a transformative and unforgettable experience.

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Together We Will Go
J. Michael Straczynski

The Breakfast Club meets The Silver Linings Playbook in this powerful, provocative, and heartfelt novel about twelve endearing strangers who come together to make the most of their final days, from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author J. Michael Straczynski.

Mark Antonelli, a failed young writer looking down the barrel at thirty, is planning a cross-country road trip. He buys a beat-up old tour bus. He hires a young army vet to drive it. He puts out an ad for others to join him along the way. But this will be a road trip like no other: His passengers are all fellow disheartened souls who have decided that this will be their final journey—upon arrival in San Francisco, they will find a cliff with an amazing view of the ocean at sunset, hit the gas, and drive out of this world.

The unlikely companions include a young woman with a chronic pain sensory disorder and another who was relentlessly bullied at school for her size; a bipolar, party-loving neo-hippie; a gentle coder with a literal hole in his heart and blue skin; and a poet dreaming of a better world beyond this one. We get to know them through access to their texts, emails, voicemails, and the daily journal entries they write as the price of admission for this trip.

By turns tragic, funny, quirky, charming, and deeply moving, Together We Will Go explores the decisions that brings these characters together, and the relationships that grow between them, with some discovering love and affection for the first time. But as they cross state lines and complications to the initial plan arise, it becomes clear that this is a novel as much about the will to live as the choice to end it. The final, unforgettable moments as they hurtle toward the decisions awaiting them will be remembered for a lifetime.

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The Authenticity Project
by Clare Pooley

Julian is a lonely artist in his seventies who believes people should be more honest with one another. To test his theory, he writes about his own life in a green journal and leaves it in his favorite café. The efficient café manager, Monica, finds the journal and adds her own story. As the journal finds more readings and collects more stories—from a charming addict looking to get clean to a mommy-blogger with a less-than-perfect-life—the journal’s collection of misfits finds love and friendship among one another.

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The Authenticity Project
Clare Pooley

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Anxious People
by Fredrik Backman

ANXIOUS PEOPLE is a bighearted story of friendship and forgiveness from the prolific and beloved Fredrik Backman. A desperate man rushes into an apartment open house and takes those inside hostage. Too bad they aren’t his ideal hostages. There’s an expecting couple who can’t agree on anything, a retired couple whose marriage is on the fritz, an old lady who won’t be intimidated (even by a gun), a wealthy bank director estranged from all that truly matters, and a mystery man who won’t come out of the bathroom. But together, they may all find themselves changed.

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Anxious People
Fredrik Backman

An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, the new novel from the author of A Man Called Ove is a “quirky, big-hearted novel….Wry, wise and often laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a wholly original story that delivers pure pleasure” (People).

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Proving once again that Backman is “a master of writing delightful, insightful, soulful, character-driven narratives” (USA TODAY), Anxious People “captures the messy essence of being human….It’s clever and affecting, as likely to make you laugh out loud as it is to make you cry” (The Washington Post). This “endlessly entertaining mood-booster” (Real Simple) is proof that the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope can save us—even in the most anxious of times.

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In the Midst of Winter
by Isabel Allende

Sixty-year-old human rights scholar Richard thinks that when he hits Evelyn’s car in a snowstorm in Brooklyn, it’s just a minor inconvenience, but when Evelyn—a young, undocumented Guatemalan immigrant—shows up on his doorstep later looking for help, Richard and his sixty-two-year-old tenant, Lucia, develop feelings for each other while attempting to find a solution. The epic that unfolds, which encompasses a dazzling love story and leads back to 1970s Chile and Brazil, displays the trademark scope and storytelling that has made Allende an essential writer of our era.

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In the Midst of Winter
Isabel Allende

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This Magnificent Dappled Sea
by David Biro

When nine-year-old Luca is diagnosed with leukemia, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for recovery. There is only one match for his life-saving bone marrow transplant: Joseph Neiman, a rabbi in Brooklyn. As Nina, Luca’s nurse, pushes her professional boundaries to try to save the boy, she uncovers a horrifying secret from World War II that may explain why a spirited young boy in Northern Italy has Jewish genes. A poignant page-turner, THIS MAGNIFICENT DAPPLED SEA asks about the extent to which random acts of kindness can forgive generations of pain.

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This Magnificent Dappled Sea
David Biro

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Show of Hands
by Anthony McCarten

The publicity stunt is simple: contestants must keep one hand on a car, and the last one standing gets a new Land Rover. But a desperate car dealer underestimates the determination of his contestants: a vigorous young track-and-field star, a down-and-out Mensa member, a single mother who spends all day on her feet, and a patient elderly night watchman. As the days and nights stretch on in this charming and moving novel, it becomes clear that these people may all have different motivations, but none of them will let go of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so easily.

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Show of Hands
Anthony McCarten

When a desperate car dealer advertises a competition with a simple premise -- that each contestant must keep one hand on a car at all times, and the last one standing will drive away the owner of a new Land Rover -- he sets in motion a chain of events that brings together an oddball group of individuals, each with a desperate need to win.

For the contestants, this publicity gimmick represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to break records, and to prove themselves in an unlikely test of endurance. It pits the patience of an elderly night watchman against the youthful vigor and carefully cultivated stamina of a high school track-and-field star. It sets a single mother who spends her life on her feet against a down-on-his-luck Mensa member who tells anyone who will listen that he's got the whole thing figured out. As the days and nights unavoidably carry on -- and big talk and clever strategies backfire -- the contestants' true colors come through in unexpected twists.

At once lyrical and suspenseful, and by turns poignant and hilarious, Show of Hands and its all-too-human characters are ultimately unforgettable.

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MENTIONED IN:

7 Endearing Stories Where Perfect Strangers Come Together

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The Fifth Avenue Story Society
by Rachel Hauck

In this spellbinding, hopeful novel, five strangers rewrite the real stories of their hearts. Five New Yorkers receive an anonymous invitation to join the Fifth Avenue Story Society, a literary society no one has ever heard of. All of them are uniquely desperate: Lexa, for a much-deserved promotion; Jett, for justification that his literary idol is not a fraud; Chuck, for a second chance with his kids; Ed, for a way to articulate the incredible nature of his marriage; and Coral, for a way to maintain her family’s multimillion-dollar empire.

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The Fifth Avenue Story Society
Rachel Hauck

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Photo credit: iStock / rihard_wolfram

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