By Blood by Ellen Ullman

Book Review

 


By BloodBook Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Book Series: N/A

Released: 2/24/2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 378 Price: $16.00 Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book: Amazon  By Blood: A Novel

Source: I borrowed this audiobook from my library

 

 

Book Synopsis:

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.

My Review:

Another full disclosure time. I picked this book because the author’s last name began with a U.  I only need an author with an X to have read a book by an author of every letter in the alphabet.  Feel free to give me your recommendations below.   Now for the review.

I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction.  I’m also not usually one to read about the Holocaust.  Not that I am a denier or have anything but the deepest respect for the suffering that people went through.  I simply tend to be a sensitive person and I have trouble separating myself from the fiction I read.  I get emotionally distraught and it affects my mood and how I behave towards those around me.  So I tend to stay away from topics that could upset me.  Not the correct behavior I know but it is the approach I take in reading.  Life sucks why would I want to read about more suffering.  Still, I selected this book from my library because it sounded interesting and filled a reading requirement I needed.

I’m so glad I did.  This book captivated me.  Much like the narrator of the story, I became obsessed with the life the patient was revealing to her therapist.   I guess I am a bit of a voyeur too.  It was a bit of a strange read, however, and I get some of the criticism that has been posted in other reviews.  I almost find myself dividing the book into two different plots.  One plot thread revolved around the therapist and her patient and the other was the professor and his odd circumstance.    The eavesdropping on the therapist and patient being the more compelling plot.

So let’s deal with the professor first.  He needs help.  Serious help.  I can see why he was put on leave and was described as creepy.  It is exactly what he is, creepy.  Some say that his purpose was not well-defined but I disagree.  I think he probably got in trouble for sexually harassing a student and the institution he works for wanted him to disappear for a few months in hopes that the drama he stirred up would be forgotten or blow over.  While I did find him creepy I have to say I did not totally despise him.  I almost feel bad for him as I truly feel he needs help before he hurts someone.  Or it could be that I feel a tad guilty knowing I have become as obsessed with the patient’s story as he has.

Now for the therapist and her client.  This was a moving story and the sole reason I’m glad I listen to this book.  The patient’s story is that of a young woman in search of her identity.  Like many of us, she did not feel like she fit in and desperately needed to connect with her origins to make sense of the life she now leads.  What she learns is not pleasant and logically speaking should hold no reflection on who she is as a person but I can not say I would feel differently if I was in her shoes.  This part of the story is so worth wading through the creepy professor parts.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Emotions and Stress by K. Chandiramani

Emotions and Stress

Cover art thanks to Goodreads, click on it to visit book’s page there.

Non-Fiction, published: 1/28/15

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Net Galley for an honest review

Book Synopsis:

Emotions and Stress: How to manage them encourages you to deal with your own stress in a way that allows you to keep moving at the same pace. But first you must ask yourself two questions: Do I really need to run? and Am I running in the right direction?

This book attempts to bring together modern psychiatric and psychological practices with the ancient traditions of mankind. Based on K. Chandiramani’s own work using a combination of approaches, it is designed to help anyone suffering from almost all forms of psychiatric problems including anxiety, depression, anger, psychosomatic disorders, relationship issues and work-related stress.

The book is also likely to help even those who do not suffer from any psychological problems but would like to have a greater control over their emotions. Some of its chapters address existential issues that afflict all human beings, while others contain spiritual elements that facilitate the promotion of mental health and access to inner piece.

Emotions and Stress can help you transform your negative emotions into positive ones. It explains the science of emotions, how they are processed in our mind, how they influence our thoughts, opinions and actions, how to be free of them and above all how to regulate them. It is a fascinating and insightful read for anyone looking for an answer to their problems, as well as those interested in or studying psychology.

My Review:

This book was offered to anyone who wanted to download and review it, so I took a chance and downloaded it for my husband as he has a lot of work-related stress. I ended up reading it as well and am so glad I did!  This book was incredibly interesting and I learned so much.  It is only 130 pages long, but it did seem to take forever to read, but that is probably because I am used to fiction.

The book is structured well and gives you a good grasp of background information before delving into methods to cope with stress.  After I read this I feel I have a much better idea of what my husband is going through and even myself when issues from my past cause problems.  I am anxious to try out some of the coping methods the author talks about in the book.

One of the most helpful chapters in the book was the section on Psychotherapy.  All to often we wonder if we need to go talk to someone or not.  He gives some great guidelines to take into consideration to help you figure out if it is a step you should pursue.  Another concept I hadn’t though of before is that everything causes stress.  Good event and bad, so there is no escape really.  All to often we just think of negative things as the cause of problems in our lives, but really positive situations, like a vacation, can create just as much havoc in one’s stress levels.  This brought around the idea of needing to work stress releasing exercises into everyday life, and not waiting until there is a major meltdown.   This is a concept that hadn’t occurred to me before.

If you have stress in your life, and you do, everyone does.  I highly suggest this book. I am going to be picking up a print copy that I can keep for reference.  The information in this book is well-organized and applicable to those with deeper issues and those who already do a fairly good job of managing their stress.  This book will also be helpful to those who have friends and family in their life who are struggling to manage their emotions and stress too.  It will help you understand a bit more of what they are going through and recognize the signs of excess stress in their behaviors.  A great read!

My Rating: 5 Stars