When they say that the truth is stranger then fiction they must have had this book in mind. At times it reads like a Crichton novel, the Andromeda Strain suddenly becoming tame after you realize that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is non-fiction. The history, life, and events surrounding Henrietta leaves you in awe, makes you frustrated with rage, and tugs at your most empathetic feelings. From the first page, to the epilogue this book had my rapt attention. I found all the lives surrounding the HeLa cells a mix of chaos, miscommunication, good intentions, ignorance, hope, and a longing to understand. There were so many unfortunate events that just continued to over lap that it left the cells in a world similar to where they started. A metaphorical cancer eating away at the lives around it. The history and lives of the Lacks family is tragic and you can not help but feel for them. As outsiders looking in it is easy for us to say, "I understand what is going on, why didn't *insert question". But looking at this from the Lacks point of view is terrifying. The world is out to get them and their suspicions are just reaffirmed by con artists, shifty doctors, and a lack of understanding. At the same time though, you can not lay blame on the original doctors for doing what they did. It was not out of malice that they took the cells, or out of greed. They did it with the best of intentions, but as my mother always said, good intentions pave the road to hell. The doctors/scientists were swept up in a breakthrough and before they knew it it was being produced on a massive scale.
It is a riveting read and you find yourself learning a lot without even knowing it.
This fascinating book isn't only entertaining from the standpoint of learning about the HeLa cells & Henrietta's story, but her daughter Deborah Lacks' struggle is so well-told, too. Ms. Skloot's research on this book (a decade in the making) is absolutely unbelievable and is so well explained even on the simplest level. Everyone can enjoy & learn so much from this book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in not only a hugely important part of medical history, but a look into the lives of a very endearing family.
I have seen this title on so many "best-of" lists that despite the fact that the premise didn't exactly grab me, I thought the book must be worth reading. There have been many times I've enjoyed a well-written book that didn't initially interest me but which I bought based on stellar reviews; I expected this book to be in the same category. Sadly, it's not. This is one of the most boring books I've read in a long time. Though the story of what happened to Henrietta Lacks' cells is fascinating, this author instead focuses on Lacks' uninspiring and rather dull family. The family feels cheated, for good reason, but that's the extent of the drama. There is nothing exceptional about the family, Lacks' history, or anything about this book. Though Lacks' cells were indeed exceptional the author treats that as an aside. The author explains that she wanted a unique perspective on Lacks' place in history. Fine, but that's no excuse for writing a dull book.
This is one of the best books I've read/listened to all year. Skloot paints a compassionate, 3-dimensional portrait of a person, her family and an era. The subject matter is beyond belief and will have you with your jaw on the floor several times over. You'll be in awe and horror. You'll be touched, you'll cry. You'll be indignant. You'll be inspired. The story focuses mainly on Deborah- the daughter of Henrietta Lacks. This greatly humanizes what could otherwise be a dry, bioethics case-study. I can't recommend this book highly enough-- you will learn so much.
The book taught me about the science of HeLa cells and that was the main reason I wanted to read this. I found that portion of the book very interesting. I was also moved by the tragic story of Henrietta's life. She deserved much better. However, the story seemed to drone on about the life of her descendants to the point I didn't care about them anymore. They began to annoy me with their antics to the point that the sympathy I originally had for them disappeared. I understand their socio and economic background and understand their plight but has Henrietta's daughter said, "times were different back then" and nothing was done intentionally to defraud or short-change the family.
The last part of the book was interesting where it discussed what is happening today legally and ethically regarding the use of human tissues when they leave your body. Like Henrietta, it is something you just don't think about. As I believe Henrietta would have wished, I would hope that my discarded tissues could benefit mankind in some way.
This was one of those books that you're already looking forward to the next before this one ends. A good book is one that as you approach the end you wish there was more. Unfortunately, this was more the former for me.
This book has been a thoroughly engaging listen. I kept thinking, she's told the whole story, what's going to be left for the 2d half, but it's keeps me enthralled for both parts. It's a great scientific and human interest story, in which the author deftly raises a series of important issues of science, race, class, medical and health care, economics, education, and journalism, parenting, family, loss, and mental health,
This book could have been cut in half and the story would have been more interesting and compelling. There was way too much about the family, details that were too long and uninteresting. The remaining half, however, would make an interesting story and deserves to be told.
One of the best and most important books of our time... a must read for anyone. I loved Skoot's ability to weave science with emotion and morality. Best book of the year.
I guess I was hoping for more science with this title, but the first half (I didn't listen to the second half) was primarily rehashing Henrietta Lacks' surviving family members' disdain for what happened to Henrietta. This topic needs more attention, more coverage, and this book is a start, but it was more drama than substance in my opinion. The narrator was fine, and the audio quality is great. I loved Demon in the Microscope, a book about germ theory/antibiotics.
I thought this would be a interesting book but it failed on almost all accounts. Great opportunity to discuss rights of individuals and their genetic code. Rights of Universities to capitalize on research and restrict indivuals. The history of cloning human cells and its implications on future research. Alas the book is mostly about a poor family who loved a family member. Avoids important issues. A complete let down.