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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 opened my eyes to things I did not know about cells. I think everyone should be aware of this controversy. Read morePublished 11 hours ago by Stephanie Brown
I think this book is a "must read" for anyone associated with health care and patient's rights. Simply from a historical perspective it is worthwhile. It is well written. Read morePublished 11 hours ago by SVF
This should be required reading for every person enrolled in a science program, especially health care students. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Pamela Jennings
Had to read it for BSN class in Issues and Values. I loved it and learned a lot from it. Easy read too.Published 1 day ago by Lori
Surprising and sad report of, yet again, mistreatment of African American citizens. Very well written.Published 1 day ago by Sue Sue
We chose this book for our book club and it sparked a great conversation about the history of science in our life time, poverty, research ethics and much more. Read morePublished 2 days ago by helen ingrams
A fascinating story about how one woman's short tragic life and how the cancerous cells that killed her, lived on after her passing and helped with biomedical breakthroughs long... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Love Orcas