Set This House in Order: A Brief Introduction

Set This House in Order is a captivating novel written by Matt Ruff, an acclaimed author known for his unique storytelling and thought-provoking narratives. This intriguing book takes readers on a psychological journey filled with mystery, intrigue, and self-discovery. Set in the Pacific Northwest, the story unfolds in a complex web of personalities, secrets, and the fragile human mind.

The Plot

The novel revolves around Andrew Gage, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), commonly known as multiple personalities. Unlike most books that strive to portray this condition in a stereotypical manner, Set This House in Order delves deep into the psychological intricacies of DID while maintaining an accurate and respectful portrayal.

Andrew, along with his alternate personalities, lives a peaceful and orderly life within the confines of his mind palaceā€”a mental construct where each personality has a designated room. He works as a software designer, helping to create powerful virtual realities for the entertainment industry.

However, Andrew’s carefully constructed equilibrium is disrupted when he meets Penny Driver, another person with DID but raised in a vastly different environment. These two individuals form an unlikely connection, leading to shared memories and a quest to untangle the dark secrets of their past.

Awards, Praise, and Critiques

Set This House in Order has garnered critical acclaim since its publication. The novel was shortlisted for the James Tiptree Jr. Award, which recognizes notable science fiction or fantasy works dealing with gender or sexuality. Additionally, it received nominations for the Nebula Award for Best Novel.

Many reviewers have praised Matt Ruff for skillfully crafting a compelling story and exploring the complexities of the human mind. The novel’s accurate portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder and its compassionate treatment of mental health issues have earned widespread recognition in the literary community.

However, some readers found the intricate plot and detailed character development to be demanding, requiring full concentration and investment from the reader. Others believed that Ruff’s exploration of mental health could have been further expanded to provide a deeper understanding of the condition.

Important Characters

Andrew Gage: The protagonist of the story, Andrew is a software designer and artistically gifted person with DID. He strives for order and balance, maintaining harmony within the personalities residing in his mind.

Penny Driver: The female protagonist, Penny, also has DID but experienced a tumultuous and abusive childhood. Her alter personalities are more dominant and violent compared to Andrew’s, adding an element of danger to their companionship.

Two Davids: Within Andrew’s system, the most prominent personalities are the Two Davids. David #1 is the responsible and caring personality, while David #2 is adventurous and rebellious.

Dr. Henry Earl Cottonwood: Andrew’s therapist, Dr. Cottonwood plays a significant role in helping him navigate his fragmented mind and uncover the hidden traumas of his past.

Eddie: Another personality residing within Andrew, Eddie represents a rebellious spirit and often exhibits juvenile behavior.


Set This House in Order is a complex and engrossing novel that delves into the realm of dissociative identity disorder with sensitivity and intelligence. Matt Ruff’s powerful storytelling and vivid characterization captivate readers, leading them through a labyrinth of secrets and emotions. With its well-deserved recognition and accolades, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the intricacies of the human mind.

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