Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Book Review: 'Set This House in Order'

There have been a number of books published over the years whose theme is multiple personality disorder (MPD). For example, Sybil described the alleged therapy of a young woman who had developed multiple personalities in response to a history of abuse from her mother. But Matt Ruff's gripping novel Set This House in Order is very different to anything I have read before. Two MPD people meet in the same job and an intriguing, authentic-feeling relationship leads to a unique thriller that will have you turning the pages long into the night. Andrew has learned to live with his MPD and bring order to his inner world. But Penny has blackouts that produce chaos and confusion. This is a moving, deeply engaging, and fascinating story with a genuinely suprising outcome. At the back of the book is an interview with the author, two articles on MPD (or Dissociative Identity Disorder, as it is now called) and some recommendations for further reading. There are some website addresses included for finding out more about MPD. If you are looking for something fresh, intriguing, moving, mysterious, and has depth then you shouldn't go past this excellent read. Make sure, though, you check out the Related Links below for information on a very controversial diagnosis. From the Cover Andy Gage was born in 1965 and murdered not long after by his stepfather. . . . It was no ordinary murder. Though the torture and abuse that killed him were real, Andy Gage's death wasn't. Only his soul actually died, and when it died, it broke in pieces. Then the pieces became souls in their own right, coinheritors of Andy Gage's life. . . . While Andy deals with the outside world, more than a hundred other souls share an imaginary house inside Andy's head, struggling to maintain an orderly coexistence: Aaron, the father figure; Adam, the mischievous teenager; Jake, the frightened little boy; Aunt Sam, the artist; Seferis, the defender; and Gideon, who wants to get rid of Andy and the others and run things on his own. Andy's new coworker, Penny Driver, is also a multiple personality, a fact that Penny is only partially aware of. When several of Penny's other souls ask Andy for help, Andy reluctantly agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy the stability of the house. Now Andy and Penny must work together to uncover a terrible secret that Andy has been keeping . . . from himself. Related Links
  • Matt Ruff's website for the book where you can read the first four chapters online.
  • The Skeptic's Dictionary entry on multiple personality disorder - an excellent discussion of this controversial diagnosis.
  • An important essay by Paul R McHugh who was Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore when he wrote it.

Buy Set This House in Order from

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