Monday, October 3, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

It's been a really long time since I've been so captivated by a book as I have been by "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot. Usually non-fiction science / medical reads are not my thing, but this book completely entranced me. I won't reveal too much, but it tells the true story about cancer cells taken from a poor black woman in the 1950's without her knowledge, much less consent, which were the first human cells to be cultivated and reproduced in labs gazillion times over and are still in existence even today. The book deftly weaves many interrelated story lines: Henrietta Lacks' personal story, the tremendous impacts that her cells have had through the years on medical research, the (often similarly heartbreaking) lives of her various relatives and descendants, and overriding socioeconomic historical contexts. Although they are not without their faults, you really find yourself rooting for Henrietta Lacks and her family, as well as for the author, who is the first to tell this complete story with full credit to the Lacks family, after all these years. It's hard to explain without giving away too much, but it's an incredibly touching, fascinating, educational, page-turner of a read.

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