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Honestly, I can't imagine a better tale.
A detective story that's at once mythically large and painfully intimate.
Just the simple facts are hard to believe: that in 1951, a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks dies of cervical cancer, but pieces of the tumor that killed her--taken without her knowledge or consent--live on, first in one lab, then in hundreds, then thousands, then in giant factories churning out polio vaccines, then aboard rocket ships launched into space. The cells from this one tumor would spawn a multi-billion dollar industry and become a foundation of modern science--leading to breakthroughs in gene mapping, cloning and fertility and helping to discover how viruses work and how cancer develops (among a million other things). All of which is to say: the science end of this story is enough to blow one's mind right out of one's face.
But what's truly remarkable about Rebecca Skloot's book is that we also get the rest of the story, the part that could have easily remained hidden had she not spent ten years unearthing it: Who was Henrietta Lacks? How did she live? How she did die? Did her family know that she'd become, in some sense, immortal, and how did that affect them? These are crucial questions, because science should never forget the people who gave it life. And so, what unfolds is not only a reporting tour de force but also a very entertaining account of Henrietta, her ancestors, her cells and the scientists who grew them.
The book ultimately channels its journey of discovery though Henrietta's youngest daughter, Deborah, who never knew her mother, and who dreamt of one day being a scientist.
As Deborah Lacks and Skloot search for answers, we're bounced effortlessly from the tiny tobacco-farming Virginia hamlet of Henrietta's childhood to modern-day Baltimore, where Henrietta's family remains. Along the way, a series of unforgettable juxtapositions: cell culturing bumps into faith healings, cutting edge medicine collides with the dark truth that Henrietta's family can't afford the health insurance to care for diseases their mother's cells have helped to cure.
Rebecca Skloot tells the story with great sensitivity, urgency and, in the end, damn fine writing. I highly recommend this book. --Jad Abumrad
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This book is awesome, it's an important and informational read. I learned so much about the truth of an unknown matter.Published 16 minutes ago by Trina Robinson
Very important part of our history gives one many thoughts to ponderPublished 20 hours ago by Irene Meehan
Fascinating story of cell research that began in 1950's. In addition, the reader has the opportunity to learn about the life of a proud, young black woman who has left her rural... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Alice's Point of View
Fascinating story of medical advancement and a family left behind. For a non-American it was a real insight into the life of the poor in the U.S.A. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Mike
This story was very interesting and how the laws have changed regarding donating tissues versus just being taken by the medical industry. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Pdlt
It's not for everyone. The science part was somewhat deep for me sometimes, but the tragic story of the Lack's family outweighed that. Fascinating even to a non-science person.Published 2 days ago by Pam
I never had heard of Henrietta Lacks before reading this book. Now I know about her and her unwitting contribution to modern science.Published 3 days ago by James D. Smith