Author : Ellen Ullman ISBN : 0374117551 Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Summary:
Award winning novelist Ellen Ullman shows up again, this time presenting the world with a literature fiction that takes form of one thought-provoking work of art - By Blood: A Novel, a remarkable story involving three characters, a triangle of stirring emotions, with the scene that of the 1970s' post-warfare phase of a turbulent San Francisco.

"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."

Late Summer, 1974 - San Francisco: A dishonored professor takes a leave from his university and finds himself a not-much-but-just-an-office office in the downtown commercial district. Forced to keep functioning with a limited sum of money, he is contented with the space he has to prepare lectures concerning classical Greek literature. He wishes to get back to the academia, and these lectures, he feels, would play their part in it.

In the meanwhile: Dr. Schussler treats her patient, a 30 year old lesbian woman who feels vacuumed into herself by an overly conservative mother, now seeking a remedy - the last piece of her life's puzzle that, she feels, would dissolve her creeping memories into peace. "The patient", has a murky background of adoption, and now wishes to know about her true parents.

Scenes merge into a happening as a result of thin walls separating two offices within an old building, which instigates an ever curious professor to eavesdrop over a deep psychologist-patient conversation. Motion sparks fire and the professor is hellbent on helping the patient overcome her tormenting; progression marks the gradual unraveling of truth, as the professor narrates the story of a change, the behind the scenes that brings dotted hopes closer, only to reveal a thin ray of light within an empty space.

Review:
By Blood is a literary fiction that is crafted to spilling the essence of art onto the terrain where it prevails. Ullman steals the tenebrific substance out of dark matter, and shows us what's been hidden under the cloaky surface of hues - clarity, contentment, and connection; another random happening, and yet again the pieces had come fit. The narration flows seamlessly, the simple language doing its duty to keep the rider secured to the locomotive. This is one ambitious work that is out to redefine entertainment as introspection. Knowledge liberates the menagerie within, contentment fills whats left of space. Contradictions trigger communication, polarity causes activity. The characters in the book evidently portray the objects of one expression, here in the form of a change in the professor's disgraced living. The plot is a congregation of several emotional states, put for a "wise display". The scenes are interwoven with strands of 1970s nostalgia and some sexual politics, acting the fuel for the suspense-intension. Reading through the book is like a jaunt through one of your internal burrows, knowing all poignant elements, only to find yourself on the otherside, marking the knowing of a cold, a cycle completed.

Nhut Pham

Nhut Pham

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