By Blood

By Blood - Ellen Ullman Ellen Ullman's "By Blood" is a slow starter, and I must confess that I almost abandoned the book. However, once it got going, the book had me enthralled.The first-person narrator, an unnamed male professor, is under investigation at his university during the early 1970s. He rents an office in which to do some writing, on the premise that he will function better by leaving his home for a certain number of hours each day. The office turns out to be next door to a psychiatrist's practice. The walls are thin, so the doctor uses a white noise machine for privacy.Except there is one patient who cannot stand the sound of the white noise machine, so it is turned off during her sessions. The narrator starts eavesdropping on the sessions and discovers that the patient is adopted and trying to find her mother -- a Jewish concentration camp survivor who surrendered her infant for adoption.The professor makes it his business to assist the patient in her search while still remaining anonymous.Once the search process gets going, the book really picks up. I will not post spoilers here, but suffice to say that there are numerous twists and turns and some completely unexpected events that come from the professor's singular decision.Fans of literary fiction are sure to enjoy this work. Highly recommended.