OVERRIDE

By Blood

A Novel

Ellen Ullman

Picador

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.
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.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Chapter 1

I did not cause her any harm. This was a great victory for me. At the end of it, I was a changed man. I am indebted to her; it was she who changed me, although I never learned her name.

My involvement with the young woman in question began several years ago, in the late summer of 1974, while I was on leave from the university. I sought to secure for myself a small office in the downtown business district of San Francisco, where I intended to prepare a series of lectures about The Eumenides—The Kindly Ones—the third play in Aeschylus’s great trilogy. A limited

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REVIEWS

Praise for By Blood

"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

"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

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ellen Ullman

  • Ellen Ullman is the author of a novel, 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.
  • Ellen Ullman Marion Ettlinger
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By Blood

A Novel

Ellen Ullman

New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year
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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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