It's hard to imagine that so much scientific research and advancement in medicine could come from the cells of one person. Skoolt exposes this story with loving detail, and helps us understand where the personal history of one family and science meet. All I can say is thank you, and bravo for a book so well written. And thank you to Lacks family for having the courage to trust and share their story after being taken advantage of by so many others.
The audio book was narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, both of which I first experienced in the phenomenal book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I remain impressed with their skills of narration, and will start perusing their lists of audio books more frequently.
This book was absolutely fascinating. Miss Skloot was able to re-humanize an important aspect of science who had been objectified and exploited from the start, but to the overall benefit and evolution of medical science, its ethics and practice. The Immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks (HeLa) as the medium, has had a profound impact on biological studies, the likes for which the entire world could and should be grateful.
This is not just a recollection of scientific and biological history, but a biography of Henrietta's legacy. The book also offers a valuable snapshot of the dismissive and often cruel nature of race relations and segregation that took place as little as 60 years ago. Though she and her family suffered greatly, I am glad to know of Mrs. Lacks. I'm also thankful for what she and the scientific community has done for me, my friends, family, and the world.
This book was easy to listen to, understand, and follow. I highly recommend this audio book!
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Never heard of Henrietta Lacks and her eternal (hela) cells? Me either, and the story is fascinating. The book has several story lines: Henrietta's life; her cells and medical advances; Henrietta's family present day; Daughter, Deborah's struggle to find the truth; and the author, Rebecca Skloot's precarious journey to write the book. All roads run simultaneously and fluidly exploring each facet and staying the course to tell this amazing story.
Cells taken without Henrietta's knowledge, have been used for over 50 years to find cures for cancer, create drugs to combat AIDS, grow corneas, and too many positives to list. She was misdiagnosed on numerous occasions as a cancer patient; never gave consent for experimentation; and her family never received any royalties from the millions of dollars made from the creation, sale, and advancement achieved by testing her cells. The scientific explanation is interesting and easy to understand. The author does a good job of stating the facts mixed with the appropriate amount of emotion, but does not swing too far one way and isn't preachy or judgmental. The education in this book reaches beyond science and sheds light on how African Americans around Johns Hopkins may have been mistreated and/or used for experimental procedures and the evolving friendship between daughter, Deborah and Rebecca was tender, a little nutty, funny, and life-changing for the both of them. Narrator does a fantastic job.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. Yes, it is a book about science; and you will understand it. It is a book about a family; and you will love them. It is a book that honestly explores racism;and you will cringe. It is a book about a tenacious reporter; and you will know this was her book to write....The narration is exceptional. This book will inspire you, break your heart, and teach you. Buy the book , use your credit, you will not regret getting this great read.
Incredibly engaging and given that this history has so much to do with all humans alive today; also for anyone we know who has not died from a curable infection or certain cancers and that fewer and fewer people die from diseases that are now almost eradicated in many parts of the world, suffering and death are at an all time low due to this amazing woman's cells.
I want to thank Rebecca Skloot for her tenacity and without her willingness to give so much of HER life to telling the truth on this story; we would be forever ignorant to such an important and integral part of all our lives.
The story is one of innocence, intrigue and all out war; a fight that the Lacks family may never win, but with public outcry, and this book; I believe that this part of her story may very well change.
I think that there will always be pushback from the medical and scientific community, when it comes to our rights about our bodies and as human beings. Also, some of the issues raised in this book will be ones we will be addressing for the next few hundred years! I believe that these and others we can not even comprehend; will be issues that societies as a whole will hotly debate and those societies woes in this area will carry on debates of one kind or other for all time.
I highly recommend this book it is truly one that will be cited in history books and should be used (and most likely will be) in all medical and school curriculums.
This was an outstanding listen, with superb narration. I was impressed with Rebecca Skloot's remarkable powers of observation and objectivity, and found it refreshing not to be walloped by a writer's agenda.
I was expecting the science story to be intriguing, and it is, but the interweaving of the Lacks family members into the fabric of the narrative is masterful. The real-life events of Henrietta's children held me in a grip, and often kept me listening long past the points I planned to pause.
I have spent the last few days glued to my iPod until its battery ran down (twice), with this book.
This is one of the most compelling books I have ever read -well-written, with subject matter unbelievable and staggering in its implications for medicine.
Henrietta Lacks died at the age of 31 at Johns Hopkins in 1951, in the black ward, of cervical cancer. Her doctor retrieved a tissue sample from her cervix --something researchers do routinely -- to place the cells into a culture. Such cells were increasingly useful in the new field of virology.
Henrietta's cells lived, and they named this new cell line HeLa, using first letters from both of her names. HeLa cells were so robust, and replicated so fast, that their use has revolutionized medicine and lab research. They are the most commonly used research cells in the world. And for over 30 years, her family never knew or understood their importance.
Science writer Rebecca Skloot is wonderful with the clarity of her scientific explanations for the layman, and the timeline of important scientific events and discoveries made by the use of HeLa cells. The family's story is very moving. And her examination of the legal and moral ramifications of human tissue handling is even-handed and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
I thought the weaving of the different characters was expertly done, loved the audible interview with the author at the end. great read - couldn't stop listening!
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, like many compelling works of nonfiction, was written to tell one story, but, in its creation, uncovered several others. On the surface, Rebecca Skloot's book is about a line of cells, extracted from a single cancer patient in the 1950s, that went on to be the most widely studied human cell line in the world. On another level, it's about an evolving debate over the medical ethics of cell and DNA ownership. How much say should patients have in the use of their own genetic material? How does society balance the needs of medical research against concerns for privacy and individual autonomy?
On still another level, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about race relations in America, about uneven levels of white privilege and black privilege when it comes to access to information and advocacy. It's a story about casual exploitation by a scientific establishment that was trained to compartmentalize and not think of its work in personal terms. Finally, it's a story of a family struggling to find emotional and spiritual closure after the years following the death of their mother, who continues in a strange and somewhat mystifying afterlife.
If the book had simply been about science and ethical questions pertaining to the cells of Henrietta Lacks, I might not have found it more than mildly interesting, but the human element gives the story many more dimensions. I think Skloot did an excellent and honest job of conveying how one poor, black family from the rural South perceives science and medicine. Of course, they understand and care about the basic things that most Americans do, but their views are colored by a history and identity that, I, a well-educated, middle-class white northerner, simply haven't lived in. It was a fascinating and ultimately hopeful exploration beyond stereotypes and into how human beings really relate to questions that can never be entirely viewed in clinical, medical terms. You get to know Henrietta's extended family, and to view her life and unintended contribution to science as they do.
Overall, the book felt like an extended episode of This American Life, in that it didn’t explore (or resolve) any issue in great depth, but was engagingly put together and taught me a little about a lot of different subjects. Since it’s not a long read, I’d say it’s well-deserving of its awards and your time.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
Voted the Best of 2010 in Science and Technology, I am so glad this book got the recognition it so richly deserved. The author is a science/medical writer. But, I think, a mistake was made in the category in which it was placed. Were it in the category of nonfiction, I think more folks would think about reading it. The science part of the book is wonderful and approachable by anyone. But this is not a science or technology book per se nor, do I think, is science the best part of the book. It is a book more about ethics and the law. It is a book, I believe, mostly about our humanity and in that regard, I cannot find a better book in this year or in many others before it. The book is a superbly written and exquisitely narrated.