By Blood: A Novel
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Later: The offbeat premise leads into an increasingly creepy scenario, as the out-of-touch-with-reality professor tries to help a young psychiatric patient locate her biological family - without her realizing that he's able to eavesdrop on her psychiatric sessions. The patient, a lesbian in 1970s San Francisco, has plenty of concerns other than that of her bio-background, but is drawn into investigating further thanks to the anonymous suggestions from the eavesdropper. But not everyone welcomes attempts to dig up the past: "I wanted to make sure you would not be a Jew," says her birth mother...
While the eavesdropping narrator is clearly a questionable character, so is the psychiatrist, whose attempts to force a reconciliation with the patient's bio-family seems awfully intense. Indeed, there are tugs of war going on here, with the different characters' agendas (knowingly or not) coming into play often.
I admit that I found the gradual revelations as to the nightmarish situation that Michal found herself in a bit less interesting than the psychological dance that led up to them, and while some of the late-breaking plot twists added drama, I kept wishing that the poor patient could just let it all go. It's hard to un-know things like that, but it shouldn't change who she is... or who her half-sister is either. [The story's setting is long before the age of DNA testing, which could settle at least one question very quickly, but that's not really the point of the story!]
The very last chapter - ah, yes! I admit that I got so caught up in the patient's story that I almost forgot the eavesdropper, so when that final revelation kicked in it was startling and chilling. And, yes, satisfying. Great psychological suspense, reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith; indeed, in some ways Cry of the Owl comes to mind.
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