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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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The wonderful family of this lady tells us how hurtful misinformation can be . Some of the book is a science lesson but I still enjoyed it.Published 15 hours ago by T. osburne
Such a deep & touching story! She definitely needs to have her own library & museum! What she & her family gave (w/o monetary compensation) that still helps scientist to this day... Read morePublished 18 hours ago by C. Disnute
I would not have chosen this book, if it hadn't been our book club choice of the month, but I was intrigued from the beginning. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Sue Beer
I liked this book because it tells a true story while also providing interesting medical information. The themes covered in this book are still relevant today. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Positivelypersistentteach
I had never before heard of the story of Henrietta Lacks who unknowingly made such an huge impact on medical science by the donation of her cancerous cells for research in 1951. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Jill Clardy
This book was a required read for a school assignment. I was anticipating a dry, scientific read. This book is so well written that I would hope for a few extra minutes... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Amanda Ingmire
Rebecca Skloot handled this subject with sensitivity and objectivity. I really felt like I got to know the Lacks family. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Rebecca Wells