Matt Ruff is the author of Sewer, Gas & Electric and Fool on the Hill. He is married and lives in Seattle, Washington.
Part suspense, part literary coming-of-age story, this unusual novel follows a 29-year-old man with multiple personality disorder-a departure for Ruff, whose last book, Sewer, Gas & Electric, was a futuristic political satire. Andy Gage's psyche was destroyed at age three by his abusive stepfather, and from its fragments arose a crowd of personalities vying for control of his body. When the novel opens, the body has just been taken over by 26-year-old Andrew. Andrew's father, Aaron, had been in charge for years, but grew exhausted from the effort of keeping peace among the different "souls," which include sarcastic, horny 15-year-old Adam; five-year-old Jake; gentle Aunt Sam; and the violent, narcissistic Gideon, whom Aaron banished from the "house." Shy, intelligent Andrew, the narrator, is now trying to give Andy Gage a normal life. He finds a job at a software company in Seattle and makes friends with his sympathetic boss, Julie. This stability is threatened, however, when Andrew meets self-destructive Penny, whose own multiple personalities are in a state of chaos. Trying to help Penny get her "Society" under control, Andrew is thrown momentarily off guard, and Gideon seizes the body. In cahoots with Penny's foul-mouthed twin souls, Maledicta and Malefica, Gideon heads for Andy's home state of Michigan for a gripping showdown with important figures from his past. Ruff never lets the material become lurid, and his matter-of-fact depiction of the relationships between different personalities is remarkable for its imaginative details. Though he takes his hero seriously, Ruff offers plenty of comic situations as Andrew tries to interact with the outside world while the other souls kibbitz. Best of all is the endearing Andrew, a truly original protagonist. (Feb.) Forecast: Ruff has a cult following from his previous two books. With some handselling, this novel could win him many new fans.
`A stunning, thrilling, deeply moving work of fiction.' PETER STRAUB, co-author of Black House'
`Exceptional... Reading those first pages, you feel real excitement: the thump in head and heart of a captivating idea; the creepiness of a fairytale; the wonderment of coming across something which feels both original and authoritatively imagined.' Daily Telegraph
`Ultimately a good old-fashioned crime novel, Set This House in Order is as readable as the most golden of golden age mysteries.' New Statesman
'Irresistible... Ruff excels at the changes in bearing, speech, even appearance when someone new blows in. This may sound fantastic, but he makes them utterly convincing. Throughout, Ruff deftly evokes the comedy and pain of maintaining such an elaborate inner life.' New York Times
'A stunning feat of literary craftsmanship, gripping for all of its 479 pages... Set This House in Order is pure literary fiction at its best, immersing us in the rich, strange and sometimes terrifying landscape of the psyche.' San Francisco Chronicle
'Stunning... In no time we've fallen into Andrew's way of seeing life through many eyes. The conclusion packs a wallop, but this is ultimately a romantic story, and so even the truth is delivered tenderly. Remarkably, Set This House in Order brings extraordinary warmth to the chilliest of childhoods.' Oprah Magazine
'Riveting in its external plot as well as its interior secrets (will Andrew discover hidden horrors about his stepfather?), Set This House in Order is not so much a whodunit as a whoisit... Drawing most of his dramatis personae from the motley personalities of two thoroughly fetching characters, Ruff has created a shockingly likable suspense story... Extraordinary.' Boston Globe