Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff 4 Stars

This is the first book of Matt Ruff’s that I’ve read, and it was recommended to me while I was doing some research on Multiple Personality Disorder. The book is fiction, however a lot of research went into creating the characters in this story and keeping them all straight was just short of amazing.

Andrew Gage has MPD. He suffered extreme trauma and abuse at the hands of his step-father, and spent many years hiding away inside his own mind as other personalities, or souls as he calls them, came forward to protect him. There is nothing graphic, or too detailed about the things that happened when he was younger, but you don’t need to know what happened specifically to feel sick about it. Certain scenes are hard to stomach, but in order to understand the character, we need to know what happened to him growing up.

Andrew has many personalities, but his job is to run the body. After years and years of therapy, in order to keep some sort of control, he has had to build an imaginary house in his mind, for the “souls” to live in. He has come to terms with his MDP and knows that these other personalities exist within him, and allows them out on occasion, but in a very controlled fashion. For example, one of the personalities loves to take showers, so he lets her out to control the body for the 10 minutes they are in the shower. (you find out later, why this particular soul loves the shower)

Andrew meets another woman who also has MPD, however she doesn’t know it. She finds herself with many blackout moments where she’s lost time and has no idea what has happened or what she might have done during that time. Case in point, she has a job as a programmer, but she doesn’t know how to program, but somehow the work gets done. She just doesn’t remember it. Andrew understands this because he too, before he built his house, had had blackout moments, where he lost time and didn’t know what he’d done or what happened during that time.

Andrew tries to help her get treatment, but eventually she ends up helping Andrew to remember his past. He’s afraid he may have killed his step-father, and needs to go back to the “scene of the crime” to make sure.

I liked the book because the author has set up this world inside Andrews head so completely and managed to keep it all straight. Since I don’t know anyone with MPD, but was researching it myself when I started this, I think, in a lot of cases, he was very accurate as to what can happen to someone after this type and other types of trauma. I do think there were some fantastical parts too, for the sake of the story, but it’s still a heartbreaking read, however it does end on an uplifting note.

One note, it took me a bit to understand what was happening in the beginning and I started it, then stopped it for a few days and went back to it, and pushed through, after about 10-12 pages I started to understand what was going on. If you decide to read it, give it a chance and push through it, it will make sense before too long. Or as much sense as it can given the topic.

It’s extremely long, (500 pages) and there were lots of sections that could have probably been taken out because they didn’t really add to the story, but all in all, extremely good, and definitely recommend if you’re interested in this sort of thing.

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