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Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls Hardcover – Feb 4 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (Feb. 4 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060195622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060195625
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #718,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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


“...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

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 22 2004
Format: Paperback
"Set This House in Order" is truly one of the best-crafted novels I have read- a deftly, cleverly written story with captivating characters. It has an intriguing premise that is carried through to its full potential: Andrew Gage, a narrator and the main protagonist, is one personality belonging to a person with multiple personality disorder. Andrew has been chosen to be the responsible, regulating public persona for his body. Through Andrew, the different personalities inhabiting the body have input, but order is maintained, transforming what is usually considered a psychological disorder into a somewhat bizarre but rich and interesting way of life. When Andrew realizes that his co-worker Penny suffers from multiple personality disorder, he attempts to help her come to grips with her situation and find a better way of handling the many souls vying for dominance in her life. Amazingly, even though there are many characters residing in two bodies, each personality is so distinctive that the story is clear and free of confusion. The plot has a great mix of romance, adventure, and mystery, but it's the characters that make this a truly magnificent novel. The empathy of Ruff's writing imbues each personality with a unique and human soul. Though the idea of multiple personalities might sound difficult or disturbing, the story itself is full of gentleness and compassion. Like "Middlesex" or "The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime," "Set This House is Order" is an amazingly well-written and empathetic novel.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read hundreds of books over the years, but I don't think I've ever read anything quite like this before: a novel whose main character is the dominant soul (to use Matt Ruff's own terminology) of a person with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).
That soul is Andrew Gage - who, in the chronology of Ruff's novel, was "born" just two years ago. Andrew was created by the former dominant soul, Aaron, to take over that role because he (Aaron) was exhausted from dealing with all the other souls in the body and from building the "house" that they all (but one) now reside in. It would take more space than is available in this review to explain about the "house", but Ruff explains this rather interesting concept extremely well.
The story deals with Andrew's getting his "house" in order, so to speak; his interaction with a fellow, "immature" victim of MPD, Penny Driver; and his discovery of several things in his body's past that could potentially cause Andrew to lose his place as the dominant personality.
I was extremely impressed with Ruff's ability to establish each soul with its own distinct personality. He must have done quite a lot of research on the subject to be able to do this. And to do it with two people (Andrew & Penny) is nothing short of amazing.
Penny and her souls are somewhat weaker characters than Andrew and his, but considering Penny's state when Andrew first encounters her that's hardly surprising. Julie Sivik, the woman who brings Andrew and Penny together, seems to me to be a bit of a caricature - she definitely has her own psychological hangups (as does everyone in this book, to one degree or another) - but she is definitely essential to the story, as you'll see.
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Format: Hardcover
"Set This House In Order" is Matt Ruff's finest work of fiction to date, brilliantly adding to a splendid body of work that includes such classics as his literary debut "Fool On The Hill" and the Ayn Rand-influenced cyberpunk novel "Sewer, Gas, Electric: The Public Works Trilogy". He offers a fascinating twist on the coming-of-age tale, exploring the lives of the multiple personalities inhabiting the bodies of Andrew Gage and Penny Driver. Like Jonathan Lethem in "Motherless Brooklyn", Ruff writes eloquently and with much compassion about two characters afflicted with a severe personality disorder. None of his splendid prose lapses into cliche or melodramatic writing. It's one of the few books I have read lately that I found almost impossible to put down, compelled to read vast portions of the novel at one clip. Without a doubt, Matt Ruff has become the most distinguished writer ever to have graduated from New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School. He is also among my generation's most talented writers, comparable in quality to the likes of Jonathan Lethem, Jeffrey Eugenides and Michael Chabon.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a real tour-de-force novel that manages some remarkable feats without being pretentious or overly showy. Grounded, conversational, and naturalistic in style, Matt Ruff latest novel is quite a departure for him, or anyone else, I would imagine.
Andy Gage is an average guy with multiple personality disorder who seems to have a grip on it. Rather than integrating all his "souls" into one Andrew, he and his psychiatrist have found it works best for him to have all the personalities present, but in order. His "father" grew tired of being in charge of Andrew's body, so another personality, Andrew, has appeared to try to give Andy Gage a normal life. The souls are all still there, but live in a house organized by the father in Andy's head. Andy lets each soul surface when needed or when something is going on that he feels one might especially enjoy. He might seem a little strange to the outside world, but he's not blacking out and having days and weeks disappear. And he's got a new job with a computer firm in his small town outside Seattle.
So everything's going well for Andy until his sympathetic boss hires a new programmer who also has MDP. Unlike Andrew's orderly house of souls, Penny's "society" is in complete chaos. Thrown for a loop, Andy's most destructive soul takes over and Penny and Andy are on the roadtrip from hell to take on the demons of Andy's past in his small Michigan home town.
The first two-thirds of "Set this House in Order" are wonderful. Hearing Andy describe how he gets ready in the morning (different souls take on the various elements of the morning toilette) is a kick. But the final third becomes so frenetic that the sympathy and affection set up in the beginning to the novel begins to unravel.
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