Who, you might ask, is Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) and why is she the subject of a book? On the surface, this short-lived African-American Virginian seems an unlikely candidate for immortality. The most remarkable thing about her, some might argue, is that she had five children during her thirty-one years on earth. Actually, we all owe Ms. Lacks a great debt and some of us owe her our lives. As Rebecca Skloot tells us in this riveting human story, Henrietta was the involuntary donor of cells from her cancerous tumors that have been cultured to create an immortal cell line for medical research. These so-called HeLa cells have not only generated billions of dollars for the medical industry; they have helped uncover secrets of cancers, viruses, fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping.
Again, I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction, but this book was amazing, mostly because of the story of Henrietta Lacks, and the fact that her family is still living.
I don’t have a lot to say about the book except that it is incredibly readable, engaging, and told in a way that makes science interesting, especially to someone like me who does not understand anything scientific.
It was a heart-breaking read, but totally worth it. Highly recommend this one!