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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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I have been sticking to fiction for the past few years, but this was a great deviation. Such an interesting story and well told by the author. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Megs814
Scientists and biologists would appreciate this book and thank Henrietta Lacks for her contribution to the cure of all things.Published 2 days ago by Anabelle Lynn
I like the fact that this book is based on fact. I recommend it to anyone interested in genetics, medical research, or ethics debate. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Robin HT
I love the way this book is written. The author gives you all details behind the ethic concerns and provides a lot of evidence and interview material, so you can really get into... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Charisse2011
Intimate, in depth biography of a Black family living in Baltimore in mid-20th century coupled with the contrasting medical community and their interactions related to use of their... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Claudia Shuster
This book was informational and very well written. The story was so inspirational, thought-provoking and fascinating, I have so much respect for Rebecca Skloot's dedication,... Read morePublished 3 days ago by R. Kramer