This book made all sorts of waves when it came out (last year, I think) and I really wanted to read it but of course it got put off and put off. Finally I decided to get the audio from the library and just listen to it rather than reading it. Boy, am I glad I did - I can't believe I waited so long to dig into this book!
Here's part of the summary from Amazon.com (since I'm feeling really lazy right now - still recovering from BEA!):
Henrietta Lacks was a mother of five in Baltimore, a poor African American migrant from the tobacco farms of Virginia, who died from a cruelly aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. A sample of her cancerous tissue, taken without her knowledge or consent, as was the custom then, turned out to provide one of the holy grails of mid-century biology: human cells that could survive--even thrive--in the lab. Known as HeLa cells, their stunning potency gave scientists a building block for countless breakthroughs, beginning with the cure for polio. Meanwhile, Henrietta's family continued to live in poverty and frequently poor health, and their discovery decades later of her unknowing contribution--and her cells' strange survival--left them full of pride, anger, and suspicion. For a decade, Skloot doggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of these stories, slowly gaining the trust of the family while helping them learn the truth about Henrietta, and with their aid she tells a rich and haunting story that asks the questions, Who owns our bodies? And who carries our memories?This is one of those knock-your-socks-off kind of books. As you read (or listen) you are constantly thinking, "How did I not know this story before?" and "How did this actually happen to these people?!"
By the time you gather in all the science, the history, and the people, there is a LOT going on in this book. The author did a great job gathering all the threads of the story and weaving them together into one. I never felt confused about what was going on or who someone was. I also cared a great deal about the people in the story, though there were times when I was amazed at the author's patience with Deborah (Henrietta's daughter, and the main contact for the story) - I am certainly NOT that patient!
I realize this isn't really much of a review. Unfortunately it's been about a month since I finished listening to this book and though I really enjoyed it I didn't make any notes about what I wanted to write. Instead I can just give you my lingering impression of the book, which is this: this is a story EVERYONE should be familiar with and I cannot recommend it enough.