Customer Review

601 of 643 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, engrossing, fascinating, heartbreaking, englightening...ALL in one stellar book!, January 16, 2010
This review is from: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Hardcover)
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This is hand's down one of the best books I've read in years and I wish I could give it more stars. It is going to be difficult to capture exactly what makes this book so outstanding and so captivating, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

First of all I want to say I am STUNNED that this is the author's first book. She has poured ten years of her heart, soul, mind and her life in general in this book. What she has given birth to in that long period of labor is worthy of her sacrifice and honors Henrietta Lacks and her family.

Other reviews have given the outline of this amazing story. What I want to stress is that Ms. Skloot has navigated the difficult terrain of respecting Mrs. Lacks and her family, while still telling their story in a very intimate, thorough, factual manner. What readers may not know is that the Lacks family isn't just a "subject" that the author researched. This is a real family with real heartaches and real challenges whose lives she entered into for a very long season. The Lacks' family has truly benefitted from the author's involvement in their life and that is something I am very appreciative of. I believe that Ms. Skloot was able to give Henrietta's daughter, Deborah, a real sense of healing, deliverance, peace and identity that she had been searching for her whole life...that story alone would have made the book for me.

It would have been very easy for the author to come across as condescending or patronizing or possibly as being exploitive as she wrote about a family that is poor and uneducated. Instead the story is infused with compassion and patience as she not only takes the family along with her on a journey to understand their current situation and the ancestor whose life was so rich in legacy but poor in compensation; she educates the family in the process. I get the sense that the author grew to genuinely love Henrietta and her family. I am in awe of this level of commitment.

The author has managed to explain the complex scientific information in a way that anyone can comprehend and be fascinated by. The author's telling of the science alone and the journey of Henrietta's immortal cells (HeLa) would have made the book a worthy read in itself. Ms. Skloot and Henrietta captured me from page one all the way to the final page of the book. I read it in one pass and I didn't want it to end.

The author manages to beautifully tell multiple stories and develops each of those stories so well that you can't help but be consumed by the book. This is the story of Henrietta. It is the story of her sweet and determined daughter, Deborah. It is the story of the extended Lacks family and their history. It is a story of race/poverty/ignorance and people who take advantage of that unfortunate trifecta. It is a story about science and ethics. It is a story that should make each of us reflect on the sacrifices made by individual humans and animals that have allowed us to benefit so much from "modern" medicine. It is a story about hope and perseverance. It is a story about love and healing.

I cannot imagine a single person I know who wouldn't love this book and benefit from reading it. I will be purchasing the final copy of the book and am looking forward to reading the book again.

I am counting the days til Ms. Skloot writes another book and can't wait to attend one of her upcoming lectures. A fan is born!
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 10, 2010 8:38:32 AM PST
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2010 7:42:53 AM PST
No Man says:
This is an excellent book!! Read it and then you will know why the review is so glowing!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2010 11:37:09 PM PST
Living it up says:
This snarky little comment cracks me up, but then again I am in a rather fabulous mood at the moment!
You have no idea how much I'd enjoy being related to someone as talented, gifted and tenacious as this author!
I, along, with 49 of the other 64 current reviewers, read this book and found it to be worthy of 5 stars (or more). Another 10 reviewers gave it 4 stars. I would have hoped that someone so discerning (snarky is as snarky does) noticed that many other reviewers headings also used very enthusiastic and praiseworthy language; lending a high degree of credibility to my own enthusiastic review (this author simply cannot have THAT many mothers!)
As to your learning NOTHING about the book in my review, I'm laughing again (Quick, what was Henrietta's daughter's name? Hint: it's in my review. Ta da, you learned SOMETHING about the book after all.)
I must be really weird (yep, I've opened the door for you to come up with a snazzy response to my comments) because i am not looking to customer reviews for the contents of a book. I can read amazon's description for that. Instead I look to customer reviews to find out how a book has impacted readers, changed their minds, enlightened them, comforted them, challenged them, entertained them, etc. I want to know if the author is one who has the gift of storytelling, turns a beautiful phrase, writes lyrical prose that captures our hearts, develops rich characters, educates us, creates plots that entice us, leads us into worlds and places that we'd give anything to visit, or maybe they just make us laugh.
I feel bad that on 2/10/10 you were unable to be happy that there are authors like this writing fabulous stories for all of us to enjoy and learn from. Hopefully you were just having a bad day and aren't normally this cynical (I know I'm not always quite this sassy, nor would I normally respond to a comment about my reviews).
I hope you read the book and enjoy it as much as the rest of us!

Posted on Feb 26, 2010 2:41:49 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 26, 2010 2:42:08 PM PST
Pangloss says:
I have to say that this review has persuaded me that this is a book worth reading. I had read a brief review of the book in a magazine and thought that it was definitely worth buying. But all the reviews I read on Amazon convinced me that this would be a great story. I admire people who put a lot of passion into their reviews. It suggests that a powerful book has elicited such an emotional response.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 15, 2010 10:43:12 PM PDT
Onie Wheeler says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 5, 2010 7:27:05 AM PDT
Francisco says:
I have just read this review and the subsequent comment by Kathleen Casey - what an insulting and unfounded comment it is!

Kathleen: the whole point of the customer review is to convey what the reader THINKS & FEELS about the book, not a full description of the story-line! Thats why the description comes first, and the reviews are listed below.

This review helped me decide to order it for my Kindle.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 13, 2011 4:17:19 PM PST
LOL!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 6, 2011 2:55:34 PM PST
JennyJuniper says:
I absolutely loathe the kind of review that Kathleen was apparenly looking for--some wannabe NYT reviewer parrotting the plotline and considering that a review. I can get that part from Booklist or good critical reviews in the book listing. What I want to know from Amazon readers is: did you like it? Should I buy it? Tell me a bit about parts you especially loved or particularly hated. Just don't tell me the flipping plot....over and over again!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2011 7:56:42 PM PDT
I haven't read the book, but I agree that your comment was unnecessarily rude and mean-spirited. Reviews aren't supposed to be summaries of the story; they are supposed to be an overview of how the book impacted the reader. Read the book first and then get back to us all.

Posted on Mar 9, 2012 7:35:43 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2012 7:36:46 AM PST
@ LivingItUp-
Thanks- your review nicely answered some of the negative reviews which have appeared. I agree completely with your opinion of Skloots portrayal of the family, especially of the notion that the Lackses actually benefitted from Skloots involvement. Maybe we think that Journalists should in no way affect- positive or negative- the objects of their reporting but lets be honest, they don't report in a vacuum, and if ever there was a family who should have been affected positively (at long last), the Lacks family is it!
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