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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 is the best book I've read in decades. It touches the topics I find most fascinating: medicine, science, law, medical ethics, racial discrimination and more. Read morePublished 12 minutes ago by L. Fields
One of the very best books I have read.
This book reads like a novel but has the substance of a science text book. Read more
I'm deeply moved by the (sad) story of Henrietta Lacks, and unfortunately, the lack of knowledge that most Afro-Americans, endured in that period of time. Read morePublished 5 hours ago by A. Nelson
No matter what your basic interest are, this is a book that everyone should read.
Well written about a subject that most people know little or nothing about. Read more
If you touch clinical research or research administration, or want to read a riveting, though heartbreaking story, start here. Read morePublished 1 day ago by K. Arnold
Read it long ago on a library loan. It is such an enlightening social commentary, as well as clinically enlightening. I haven't yet re read but wanted to own it.Published 1 day ago by Cape Cod granny
This is a book which requires the reader's complete attention. It delves into social issues, racial issues, medical issues, and moral issues. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Marcia P.