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Publisher's Summary

San Francisco, 1970s. Free love has given way to radical feminism, psychedelic ecstasy to hard-edged gloom. The Zodiac Killer stalks the streets. A disgraced professor takes a downtown office to plot his return. But the walls are thin, and he’s distracted by voices from next door—his neighbor is a psychologist, and one of her patients dislikes the hum of the white-noise machine. And so he begins to hear about the patient’s troubles with her female lover, her conflicts with her adoptive WASP family, and her quest to track down her birth mother.
The professor is enraptured. And the further he is pulled into the patient’s recounting of her dramas—and the most profound questions of her own identity—the more he needs the story to move forward. The patient’s questions about her birth family have led her to a Catholic charity that trafficked freshly baptized orphans out of Germany after World War II. But confronted with this new self—"I have no idea what it means to say "I'm a Jew'"—the patient finds her search stalled.
Armed with the few details he’s gleaned, the professor takes up the quest and quickly finds the patient’s mother in records from a German displaced-persons camp. But he can’t let on that he’s been eavesdropping, so he mocks up a reply from an adoption agency the patient has contacted and drops it in the mail. Through the wall, he hears how his dear patient is energized by the news, and so is he. He unearths more clues and invests more and more in this secret, fraught, triangular relationship: himself, the patient, and her therapist, who is herself German. His research leads them deep into the history of displaced-persons camps, of postwar Zionism, and—most troubling of all—of the Nazi Lebensborn program.
With ferocious intelligence and an enthralling, magnetic prose, Ellen Ullman weaves a dark and brilliant, intensely personal novel that feels as big and timeless as it is sharp and timely. It is an ambitious work that establishes her as a major writer.
©2012 Ellen Ullman (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

“An irresistible Hitchcockian page-turner, brooding and solipsistic.” ( Publishers Weekly)
“By Blood is a poetic and masterful story that takes some unexpected turns. The prose suggests Poe and Kafka, which heightens the mysterious tone that surrounds both the professor and the client and gives the novel a timeless feel.” ( Booklist)
“A rich, taut, psychologically nuanced novel…. A first-rate literary thriller of compelling psychological and philosophical depth.” ( Kirkus Reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Pam on 02-17-13

Wanted to listen in one sitting

I didn't want to stop listening to this book, because I wanted to find out what happened. I became intensely involved in the lives of the characters, and felt like I learned new aspects of World War II as well.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Beth Anne on 12-31-12

Creepy, intriguing story with history & mystery!

This book was a whole slew of crazy, creepy, intrigue. I loved every second of reading it.

The narrator was so shady. He starts off this normal guy...and as it all unfolds...I got more and more freaked out by him. I loved how he described the crows that haunted him. I thought he was so scary the more and more involved he became in the "patient's" story.

The historical aspect of the novel...the whole story about the patient and her family and WW2...was sad and rich and heavy. At times i found myself as engrossed as the narrator.

This novel was fantastic. I love the feeling I got while reading it. Like in a way I was as creepy as the guy listening in. Because I began to almost root for him to get more involved. I wanted the patient to find the truth, too.

I also liked Malcolm Hillgartner's reading of this book.

So so so good.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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