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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 terrible. It makes a family of criminals look like saints.Published 10 hours ago by michael devine
I can't put it down, as I am engrossed in learning all about Henrietta Lacks and how she never received credit for her "Immortal HeLa Cells". Read morePublished 15 hours ago by Amazon Customer
Informative for those who are interested in medical or health-related history!Published 18 hours ago by JB
What a riveting story. What an amazing woman. Put HER on the $10 bill.Published 1 day ago by mary c stevens
This is a story that needed to be told, written in clear, smooth prose. The book could have been shorter; the plethora of detail sometimes overwhelms the point Skloot wants to... Read morePublished 1 day ago by karen chase-levenson
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I work for a major laboratory in the IT department. Reading about the early days of lab testing was very interesting. Read morePublished 2 days ago by L. Baldwin
So much research has gone into this book, and the writing style made science read like a novel. The book brings up more questions than answers, but definitely food for thought.Published 3 days ago by Teresa J Payne