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A New York Times Notable Book of 2012
From the acclaimed American novelist and memoirist Ellen Ullman, By Blood is a gothic noir novel that explores questions about fate, identity and genetics in the guise of a gripping psychological thriller.
A professor is on leave from his post a leave that may have been forced upon him. He may or may not be of sound mind. To steady himself, he rents an office in San Francisco. It is 1974, a time when free love and psychedelic ecstasy have given way to drug violence and serial killings. Through the thin office walls, the professor overhears the sessions of a therapist and a patient, and without knowing the patient’s name or face he comes to know the details of her life, her family, her lovers. He inserts himself into her search for her “mysterious origins”: a deeply troubling journey through displaced-persons camps, stolen children, and hidden pasts.
Ellen Ullman is a writer of ferocious intelligence, and By Blood is thrilling and fraught, a darkly atmospheric tale of what we can know about our identity, what we can escape of it, and what we cannot.
‘A novel that thematically interweaves fate, identity, obsession and genetics into a propulsive page-turner that shows a profound understanding of character. It’s a multilayered mystery (in the same way that Dostoyevsky was a mystery writer) and an inquiry into the subjective nature of narrative . . . A first-rate literary thriller of compelling psychological and philosophical depth’
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
‘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 all should be reading.’
‘A literary inquiry into identity and legacy . . . A gripping mystery . . . The storytelling is compelling and propulsive . . . Ullman is also a careful stylist.’
—Los Angeles Times
Ellen Ullman’s By Blood is published by Pushkin Press
Ellen Ullman‘s Close to the Machine, a memoir of her time as a software engineer during the early years of the internet revolution, became a cult classic and established her as a writer of considerable talent; with her second book, The Bug, she became an acclaimed and vital novelist; By Blood is her third. Her essays and opinion pieces have been widely published in venues such as Harper’s, The New York Times, Salon, and Wired. She lives in San Francisco.