Laurie's Reviews > Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls

Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff
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's review
Dec 26, 2011

really liked it
Read in December, 2011

Andrew Gage is only two years old, but he’s a grown man. He was born in 1965 and murdered when he was young. These statements are all true. Andrew has MPD- multiple personality disorder. Andy’s soul died when he was a child, killed by his stepfather. A large number of personalities now live within the body, splintered off through the years as Andy’s stepfather abused him.

Penny Driver also has MPD, but doesn’t know it when she first meets Andy. Andy’s boss, Julie, who knows about Andy’s diagnosis, recognizes the same symptoms in Penny when they meet, and she hires Penny to work for her, bringing Andy and Penny together. Julie says she hopes Andy can help Penny, but all hell breaks loose when the two meet. Andy’s carefully constructed ‘house’ in his head, which holds all his souls, breaks down. There follows an adventure of discovery that takes place in both physical space and in the space and time of Andy’s head as what really happened in Andy’s past is brought to light.

While the first part of the novel seemed rather slow to me, after a while it picks up and starts moving at breakneck speed. Just as you think you might know the truth, something else is revealed that changes everything. In the last quarter or so of the book so many things were happening that I was starting to wonder if some of the flesh and blood characters weren’t real, but just more personalities in Andy’s head. Given all that was being revealed, it really wouldn’t have been surprising. The truth is so complex that I’m amazed that the author was able to keep track of all the strands and tie them up in the end.

Once I got past the slower bit in the beginning, I couldn’t put this book down. I couldn’t wait to see which personality would win out and run the body. I couldn’t wait to see what the truth of Andy’s abuse was, and the truth behind his stepfather’s death.

It’s a book not just about MPD, psychology, and child abuse, but about relationships, and the pathology of people who are supposed to be ‘normal’ but allow horrible things to happen. More than anything else, it’s about the strength of the human spirit and its will to survive.

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