Friday, May 16, 2014
By Blood by Ellen Ullman
The set up is somewhat classic--a banished academic who's fate is being determined by a university disciplinary committee has fled the state and headed for San Francisco, ostensible to work on the ancient Greek play The Eumenides. Hopefully his future does not depend on his progress with the project because as far as the reasder knows, he does very little in that regard. The office next to his is inhabited by a psychotherapist and when her white noise machine is turned off he can hear her therapy sessions perfectly. He becomes obsessed with one particular patient, and adoptee, like himself, who feels unloved by her family and wants to find her birth mother. The professor uses his academic resources to help her search--doing so anonymously, and then he easedrops on her results. It is not a happy story, her having a Jewish mother and this being WWII. While the professor himself is unlikable, the story is well written and it is a great example of how trauma ripples across generations.