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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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As a physician who trained and practced during the time much of this happened, this is a facinating read. Read morePublished 7 hours ago by John M. Packard
1. More about family bickering
2. Less about the legacy left for the scientific community
3. Learn the lesson, physicians and scientists: explicit consent is important
Well written historical research novel. The personal story of Henrietta and her entire family was brought out; other historical, medical events related to the development of the... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Anna Weissmann
This is a well-written story that encompasses so much of what is wrong in U.S. society today. The legacy of slavery, segregation, and continued racism, as well as class disparity,... Read morePublished 3 days ago by GreensboroDS
Loved the author being a part of this book in a way that captured the characters. It is so necessary that we have research on the contributions that have made medicine what it is... Read morePublished 4 days ago by Kathleen Wulf
Beautifully written, a tribute to Henrietta Lacks. Reads like fiction, which is amazing for a science-based nonfiction book. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Krista Sue
I like the idea of this book more than I liked the book. I felt like the author didn't ever get to where she was going with this, which may be the reason why it took so long for... Read morePublished 5 days ago by BoysMom