Download By Blood Audiobook

By Blood Audiobook, by Ellen Ullman Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Ellen Ullman Narrator: Malcolm Hillgartner Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2015 ISBN: 9781483060156
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (928 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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An award-winning writer returns with a major, absorbing, atmospheric novel that takes on the most dramatic and profoundly personal subject matter.

San Francisco in the 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 an office in a downtown tower 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, avowedly WASP family, and her quest to track down her birth mother.

The professor is not just absorbed but 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Smart…Ullman arranges her players efficiently, expertly. But what astounds is how she binds them to one another…How beautifully this book restores to us the uses, the sensuality of sound—our awareness of how much information we are passively gleaning and unconsciously filing away…The novel itself is an information technology, one that withholds information strategically for the sake of our pleasure. It’s a narrative striptease. And Ullman has such fun with it.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A literary inquiry into identity and legacy…A gripping mystery…The storytelling is compelling and propulsive…Ullman is also a careful stylist.”

    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.”


  • “Deep, lengthy, and rewarding therapy is as close as most people get to reading their lives as a novel. Here is a novel that offers itself as a deep, lengthy, and rewarding version of a therapy. The memory of reading it remains quite intense.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “What is most distinctive about Ullman’s voice…is the way it sounds fully formed, mature both intellectually and emotionally.”


  • “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 (starred review)

  • “A rich, taut, psychologically nuanced novel…A first-rate literary thriller of compelling psychological and philosophical depth.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Prize-winning narrator Malcolm Hillgartner slips seamlessly between male/female and American/German voices and projects the protagonist’s mania with conviction. Highly recommended for listeners who relish unpredictable, complex literature cast from a singular mold.”

    Library Journal

  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, March 2012
  • A 2012 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Fiction
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2012
  • A 2012 Booklist Editors’ Choice for Fiction
  • One of the 2012 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Reviews

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  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Clarissa | 2/12/2014

    " It was a weird combo of Nazi Germany - the homosexual scene in 1970s San Francisco - Israel and the creepiest narration I've read in quiet awhile. However, I did learn some things about the Holocaust that I hadn't learned before. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bibliophile | 2/11/2014

    " The voyeur in me loves books with psychoanalysts and patients getting down to the nitty-gritty. Throw in a mentally unstable eavesdropping college professor to add some menacing undertones, and I'm hooked. I read the whole thing in one sitting, but was ultimately disappointed. I wanted to know more about the Professor's back story - it wasn't obvious to me why he'd relate so strongly to the Patient. The Patient's self-pity got a bit tiresome after a while, and at times I felt sorry for both the analyst and the adoptive mother. What bothered me the most though, was the gasping. Seriously. There is a ridiculous amount of gasping going on in the therapy sessions. This analyst is supposedly an experienced professional and yet she gasps at everything the patient says? I'm easily shocked and I've never gasped in my life. I guess it was the only way to convey the character's emotions since the narrator can only see, not hear, her, but the gasping drove me nuts. Not a great thing for an analyst to do. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karyn | 2/9/2014

    " Compelling writing and fascinating story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clea | 1/26/2014

    " I loved this, but I have to admit that the ending felt too abrupt. I wanted more--more insight into the narrator's headspace at the end, more consequences for his behavior, more confrontation. What was here was really, really fantastic--five stars, I guess--but I just wanted more of it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tina | 12/30/2013

    " Excellent book that spans themes of adoption, the Holocaust and a few others that piqued my interest. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 12/9/2013

    " Could not put it down. The story has so many possible outcomes that one is constantly thinking about where it will go. It is also an illuminating picture of a dark period of history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Donald | 12/2/2013

    " A novel almost entirely told through someone eavesdropping on someone's therapy sessions. Even though it's almost all being "told" to us and now "shown," it manages to come across as actually happening at the time. The ending is somewhat of a let-down. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pam | 11/20/2013

    " 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth | 9/28/2013

    " I would characterize this book as a psychological thriller. It is well written, is a good story, and is nicely paced. There were quite a few lingering questions that weren't answered, which wasn't an issue for me, but could be for some readers. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anne | 9/26/2013

    " Well written, page turner, mystery what could be better. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vince | 9/24/2013

    " Imaginative evesdropping perspective on unseen and unnamed character's attempts to explore her mysterious past and erotic present. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kari | 5/29/2013

    " I just couldn't get into it. The narrator was just too boring and creepy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lizfig | 11/16/2012

    " High 4... I realize it had to end- I just wish Ellen Ullman would have given some more insight into the narrator's life before he meets the patient. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Theresa | 10/11/2012

    " In some ways, this was the most unusual story I've read in a long time. Even the ending was a surprise. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jan | 9/5/2012

    " Loved it! Could not put this down. Anyone who says the premise is far-fetched has no imagination. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Beth | 7/10/2012

    " Interesting, but slow moving and the ending was not satisfying. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Whitney | 5/29/2012

    " to start off, the premise was completely unrealistic. but, the back story of the patient's family was interesting enough to keep me reading. but it dragged on too long and then it just ended. terrible. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Leslie | 4/11/2012

    " mixed feelings. good premise (disgraced prof. on leave eavesdrops on next door psychiatrist's sessions with unnamed patient) and story involving WW2 and Jews' survival--but narrator is a voyeur and I ended up feeling slimed. "

About the Author

Ellen Ullman is the author of 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.

About the Narrator

Malcolm Hillgartner is an accomplished actor, writer, and musician. Named an AudioFile Best Voice of 2013 and the recipient of several Earphones Awards, he has narrated over 175 audiobooks.