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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 was recommended to be by my professor! I thought, great! Another book to read on top of everything else! Read morePublished 7 hours ago by Likestovacuumnow
It was very slightly biased but it presented a great human element that left me reconsidering several things by the end of the bookPublished 8 hours ago by Anneka Marchan
What more can be said about this book? Amazing from start to finish.Published 9 hours ago by G Jackson
Very enlightening book and worth reading. One of the better books that I've read this year and I've read a lot.Published 12 hours ago by J. Comunale
The book is wonderful. It gives you a great insight into scientific developments of cell research. Common practices of research from 1940s to 2009, and the context of it all. Read morePublished 14 hours ago by Gladys Martinez
This books touches on so many issues. Bioethics. Race and class in America. Capitalism. Personal freedom. Privacy. The lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow. Highly recommend.Published 22 hours ago by R. Hunter
Great story-family disfunction, illness, medical ethics, worldwide implications, and religious impact all involved. Great read!Published 1 day ago by Irene Wegner