SOURCE: A Readers Group read.
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. Born a poor black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells -- taken without her knowledge -- became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine.
Yet Henrietta's family did not learn of her 'immortality' until more than twenty years after her death, with devastating consequences . . . Balancing the beauty and drama of scientific discovery with dark questions about who owns the stuff our bodies are made of, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an extraordinary detective story in search of the soul and story of a real woman, whose cells live on today in all four corners of the world.
...... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue: The woman in the photograph): There's a photo on my wall of a woman I've never met, its left corner torn and patched together with tape.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 273): "Dang!" she yelled. "Now you tell me! When I started asking him questions about them tests and my mother's cells, he just handed me a copy of this book, patted me on my back, and send me home." She reached over, flipped the book open, and pointed. "He autographed it for me," she said, rolling her eyes. "Would have been nice if he'd told me what the damn thing said too."
MY THOUGHTS: Truly thought provoking, as harrowing as it is life affirming.
Author, Rebecca Skloot, obviously feels passionate about her subject and deals with the story of Henrietta, her family and the 'HeLa cells' with a great sensitivity.
Worried that the book might concentrate too much on the medical. Concerned that it would prove to be merely a critique of the scientific community I was surprised by just how much of a 'human' story it was, of just how much time was devoted to getting to know the woman, her family and some of the scientists behind 'the cells'.
A tale of medical discoveries, of changing medical ethics but, to me, of much more interest and emotional impact, a tale of race, faith and poverty. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks is essentially the story of a woman whose cells saved thousands upon thousands of lives whilst dividing and almost destroying her own family.
Occasionally repetitive, the author does have a tendency to cover old ground and at 356 pages (431 if you include all the multiple appendixes) perhaps a tad too long. Though arguably not a read for those sensitive to certain issues as the author doesn't shy away from descriptions of medical procedures and the impact of cancer, it is a story that, well worth the read, was begging to be told.
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