By Blood: A Novel (Paperback)

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By Blood: A Novel By Ellen Ullman Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

I wont discuss the plot of this book, because its one of those novels that rewards so much to the reader who goes in without preconceptions of what they are in for. Wonderful in its hypnotic creepy atmosphere, Ellen Ullman’s By Blood, moves like a Hitchcock thriller, bewilders like a labyrinthine Paul Auster story and probes and questions like a Malcolm Gladwell essay. Its one of those books where you know the path will be mysterious and the path’s end unpredictable, but you give yourself over to the ride enjoying the richness of the moments rather than rushing onward for the next twist in the tale. The narrative device that Ullman employs here works wonders, giving the perfect mix of tension and momentum to the story and carefully pacing what the characters and the reader get to learn as the novel progresses. This is a book that is going to a strong word of mouth following. You want other people to discuss it with while your reading it and certainly when you are done. 

— From Robert


A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

San Francisco, the 1970s. A disgraced professor takes an office in an old downtown building to plot his return. But he is distracted by the sounds coming from the next room, the office of a psychiatrist. He overhears the therapy sessions of a young lesbian who is in search of her adoptive family. Enraptured by the sound of her voice and obsessed with her story, the professor takes up the patient's quest as his own and discovers the disturbing truth about her origins. As he sends each new revelation to the patient---disguised as correspondence from an adoption agency---she is energized by the information, but finds herself unmoored from everything she thought she knew about herself. With ferocious intelligence and enthralling, magnetic prose, Ellen Ullman's By Blood is a dark and brilliant novel about connection, identity, history, and the terrible desire to influence another life.

About the Author

Ellen Ullman is the author of The Bug, a New York Times Notable Book and runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the cult classic memoir Close to the Machine, based on her years as a rare female computer programmer in the early years of the personal computer era. She lives in San Francisco.

Praise For…

“A literary inquiry into identity and legacy, a gripping mystery---remarkable.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

“A thrilling page-turner of a book…Book clubs of America, take note. By Blood is what you should be reading. Ullman is someone we should all be reading.” —Ed Siegel, Newsday

“Ullman arranges her players efficiently, expertly. But what astounds is how she binds them to one another….What a cast of master prevaricators she gives us, how far she makes them travel.” —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review

“A mesmerizing tale that probes the very heart of personal identity.” —Alice LaPlante, More

“[By Blood] thematically interweaves fate, identity, obsession, and genetics....It's a multilayered mystery (in the same way that Dostoevsky was a mystery writer).” —Kirkus Reviews

“Extraordinary…Proceeding in bursts of hydraulic prose, By Blood evokes San Francisco in all its stagflation gloom: the erotic danger of its nightlife, the coded nature of its transactions....Riveting.” —John Freeman, The Boston Globe

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250023964
ISBN-10: 1250023963
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: December 24th, 2012
Pages: 384
Language: English