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Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls Paperback – January 20, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (January 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006095485X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060954857
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ruff tells a surprisingly dense story that boils down to a journey of self-discovery. Andy Gage, created two years ago, is the public face of a multiple personality. There are hundreds of souls in his head, governed by his father as Andy lives in a house on a lakeshore. In the world outside, Andy works on ambitious, but unlikely, virtual reality projects. There, new programmer Penny Driver turns out to be a multiple personality, too, and the boss wants Andy to help her. Several of Penny's other souls ask for help, which Andy finally, reluctantly, agrees to give, thereby setting himself on a path that threatens the stability of his house. It seems Andy isn't as cured as he thought he was. There are still secrets in his hometown and in his mind, secrets that could destroy him. Because of the high quality of characterization in it and the unusual route the many souls of Andy Gage must take on his journey of self-discovery, this is an engaging piece of work. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“...his matter-of-fact depiction of the relationships between different personalities is remarkable for its imaginative details.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Set This House in Order brings extraordinary warmth to the chilliest of childhoods.” (O magazine)

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Customer Reviews

It's very interesting and held my attention.
M. Rodgers
While the book focuses on multiple personality disorder, the characters are portrayed as fully human, multi-dimensional (sorry!)
The best thing I can say about this book is that it changed the way I thought.
Christina M. Fayz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Christina M. Fayz on February 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If the only way you can see Multiple Personality Disorder is through the lens of Sybil, then maybe you should pass this book by, or at least commit to reading it with an open mind. Andrew and Penny are many things and many people, but they are not Sybil. This book is slightly more grounded in reality than Ruff's other books (no talking animals or genocidal computers, sorry) but that doesn't mean that this book isn't just as well-written and compelling. In fact, it's more so.
The best thing I can say about this book is that it changed the way I thought. It's very convincing, and after a few bad experiences with books that failed to convince me of their message, this book was a relief.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By J. Vilches on November 9, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Andrew is the personality in charge of "driving" the soul-ridden body of Andy Gage. Born from the ashes of Andy Gage's mind, the society of multiple personalities live in a stable arrangement together thanks to a helpful therapist. Andrew is a recently born personality trying to give the body a fairly normal life, starting with a new job at a software company. But Andrew's stability is threatened when his impulsive boss, Julie, hires Penny, another victim of multiple personality disorder. Julie wants Andrew to help Penny tame the chaos in her head. Penny doesn't understand her condition, but some of her other personalities do. Andrew is reluctant to get involved, but Penny's group of protective personas make a plea for help. When his own house of souls collapses under the strain of several shocks, Andrew and Penny end up on a road-trip to confront the past.

This is one of the best fiction books I've read this year. Ruff's handling of the multiple personalities is both inventive and sensitive. He is straightforward in dealing with the abuse that led to Andrew and Penny's fractured state - it's clearly important, but not sensationalized. In spite of the serious subject matter, Ruff manages to incorporate a good measure of humor into the story. Andrew's journey gives a whole new meaning to "finding yourself." Ruff's excellent characterizations make it easy to root for Andrew, Penny, and their collective internal societies.

I like that Ruff avoids the trap of a cliched, sappy ending, instead making it clear that there are no easy solutions. Ruff's plot was engrossing in all its twists and turns, and only one late section seemed to jump a bit off the tracks. This is a compelling book that will entertain you even as it makes you think about how we all interact with the world.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Sessa K. on May 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Don't get me wrong - as a novel, this isn't the best book I've ever read. It's clear to me, at least, that Ruff's main purpose here is not to spin us through plot twists but to give us a portrayal of how life can be for a multiple. In fact, the sudden plot turn near the end feels somewhat contrived, as if he wrote it at the last minute out of a sudden fear that the main characters' lives and the interplay between them wasn't interesting enough.

Plot and craft weaknesses aside, though, this is one of the best books I've ever read about multiplicity. I can't possibly express how tiresome it is to read story after story of how "harrowing" and "horrifying" it is to be multiple, what a dreadful condition it is, what a nightmare all multiples' lives must certainly be, since we are, after all, "shattered," "broken," "destroyed" - pick an Adjective of Dread and I can guarantee our lives have been labeled with it. If we aren't written as cringing, manipulative victims of a terrible past, then we're murderers and serial killers With A Difference - and protests to the contrary go largely unheard in the vast, craggy face of the "conventional wisdom" that permeates the genre.

So hooray for Matt Ruff, who did extensive interviews and research among actual multiples who don't fit the stereotype pushed down society's throat - people who actually like being the way they are, regardless of how they got there.

So, what it comes down to is this: as fiction, the book's a decent read, unnecessary plot excitement aside. As a decently accurate alternative to the rest of the multiplicity-related schlock out there, it's one of the most progressive and refreshing books on the subject - fiction or nonfiction - that I've ever had the fortune to find.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Guy L. Gonzalez on May 27, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After his first two books - quirky and sharply written, deftly straddling the imaginary fence between fantasy and literary - Ruff made an interesting decision in choosing his subject matter for his third novel. Instead of taking the "easy" route and returning to a fantasy setting, he steps into the real world, choosing a difficult premise, and delivers his best story yet.
While his first two books showed off his ability to handle large casts of distinctive characters and their overlapping stories, he flips the script here by focusing on two characters, both of whom house large and distinctive casts IN THEIR HEADS.
Describing the plot doesn't do the book justice as, like any worthwhile journey, half the pleasure is in getting there, and this book is a rare pleasure, indeed. In the end, Andy Gage and Penny Driver will be two people whose lives stick with you long after you reluctantly put the book down.
Matt Ruff has done it again!
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