Book Review: 'By Blood' by Ellen Ullman

A head trip as published in the March 2012 issue of MORE

by Alice Laplante
by blood image
Photograph: Peter Ardito

A disgraced professor with a history of mental instability rents an office in San Francisco’s unsavory South of the Slot neighborhood. Because the walls are thin, he finds himself privy to the intimate psycho-analytic sessions of a young woman. His annoyance quickly turns into a compul-sion to participate vicariously in her life—particularly in her search for her birth mother, who abandoned her in the chaos of post–World War II Europe—and he grows increasingly unhinged as he assumes the roles of detective, protector and, eventually, stalker. “My dear patient,” he calls her.Henever learns her name. We never learn his. But we swiftly become entangled in this complex psychological drama in which Ellen Ullman’s characters struggle to overcome trauma inflicted by their families. By Blood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is a mesmerizing tale that probesthe very heart of personal identity.

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Next: 'The Lady in Gold' by Ann-Marie

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First published in the March 2012 issue

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