One of life's many truths is that we're each the sum of our parts. It's not usually only nature or nurture that plays a role; it's both. Yet, what if you don't know one of the essential blocks of your character, you don't know who your parents are? It is this central question of identity that haunts a psychotherapy patient in Ellen Ullman's novel, By Blood.
Ullman uses an interesting story-telling device to narrate the patient's gradual exploration of her past. A professor of Classics, placed on administrative leave by his university, sets up his office next door to the therapist's. Coming in with significant baggage of his own, the troubled professor can't help but eavesdrop on the conversations between the therapist and the patient. The story, set in '70s San Francisco, is narrated by this professor.
When the patient first comes in, her primary problem is the sense of abandonment...
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