Review: Set This House In Order

Fantastic!  What a book!

This wildly intelligent and immensely entertaining novel by Matt Ruff just catapulted into my favorites list.  I thought I enjoyed his book Bad Monkeys, but this one was even better.  Matt Ruff’s imagination has no limit, and his writing flows effortlessly.

Not sure where to begin — this isn’t an easy book to summarize.  The story pivots around Andy Gage, who was born in 1965 and eventually ‘murdered’ by his stepfather.  During his death, Andy’s soul shattered into pieces, creating what we know as Multiple Personality Disorder.  Shortly after starting this book, you learn that the main characters are all in Andy’s head.  Each character, Andrew, Aaron, Adam, Aunt Sam, Jake, Sefaris, Gideon… have their own distinct persona, and their own… talents.  When the body is calm, Andrew is at the helm.  When the body is threatened,  Sefaris takes over.  (I have to note that Adam, the “teenage” soul was a personal favorite, as his quips made me laugh out loud more than once.)  Through clever work with a psychiatrist, Andrew (the soul who runs the body most of the time) keeps a “house” in his mind where the other souls reside.  Each soul can address Andrew from a pulpit on the 2nd floor.  Andrew can give up the body at any moment, which is more commonly known as “losing time.”  Depending on which soul surfaces, logic, anger, heartbreak or humor can come about.

Because Andrew’s souls are more or less “organized,” he is able to hold down a job, and live his life.  What he doesn’t expect is for his employer and friend Julie to hire Penny Driver, another individual with MPD, in an effort to help her.  Andrew and his souls are not exactly enthusiastic about this, especially since Penny has no idea that she has multiple personalities.

Penny uncrossed her arms.  She blinked and turned to me again, seeming freshly alarmed to find me standing right next to her.  This time she didn’t jump or squeak; but she stepped back as abruptly as she had come forward.  Her back once more to the door, she raised her hand in a timid wave hello.

‘Hi,’ she said.

‘Hi,’ I said back.

‘Hello,’ said Adam.  ‘Did anyone just see a parade go by?’

Penny continuously loses time, thanks to the efforts of several of her primary souls, Thread, Maledicta, Malefica and Loins.  What Penny also does not realize is that these souls want Andrew’s help, and they reach out to him without her knowledge.

What ensues is a wild tale of discovery.  While at first Andy is there to help Penny, it is eventually Penny who is there for Andy when he must confront a torturous secret.  Neither character will be all right until everything is set in order.

I’m sorry the book is finished.  I’ll miss every soul.  5 very enthusiastic stars!  Thank you, Matt Ruff, for another terrific read.

I’m now anxious to get a copy of Ruff’s newest release, The Mirage.  No doubt it’s just as good!