As another reviewer noted, I worked with HeLa cells in the late 70s and people in the lab knew at least the donor's name at that time, so when I saw this book appear on the market, I jumped to learn the rest of the story.
That, you'll learn. As noted, some parts were more interesting than others, and the book reads a little faster if you can skim. Life can get really hard when your mother dies young. Cancer treatment is bad enough now. It was brutal then.
I would have been interested in a little more cellular biology, explaining why the cells are so different. Guess that's somebody else's book to write.
My own life has taken me in and out of the orbit of the Bethlehem Steel plant at Sparrows Point more than once and reading this book could, I suppose, count as one more iteration. Amazon lists a few books about that plant, perhaps as culture-changing in its own way as Oak Ridge but vastly less glamorous. If Henrietta's husband had taken a job in a cigarette, textile, or furniture factory in the south, we might never have had the medical results generated from work on HeLa cells.
If you do research that takes you anywhere near HeLa, your peers and your clients will be reading this book. Find a copy so you know what they're talking about.
The way Skloot blends all three of these elements in this account are what makes this an immensely readable account. The bare facts of the science, while interesting, are not news, but Skloot does a good job putting the bare facts in layman's terms without seeming to talk down to us. She presents the story in a way that unfolds like a mystery--why is Henrietta Lacks immortal, and why and how did her family not know it. And as Skloot unfolds the story she lets herself into the … more
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story of the medical and scientific progress brought about with the help of the longest-surviving cell line in history; it's also the story of the woman who unknowingly contributed those cells to research, and the effects of that contribution on the woman's family Rebecca Skloot spent years with the story of Henrietta Lacks, who died prematurely of an advanced case pf metastasized cervical cancer - a case that … more
One of the things that I remember about my childhood in the 1950s and 60s was how little could be done for family members who became ill. The word "cancer: was barely spoken. Heart disease was mentioned, but only as a reason that someone was permanently disabled. Doctors, who could do so much less than than can today, were venerated far more than they are today. Henrietta Lacks was a young African American woman who listened to her doctors and didn't question. In that she … more