(from the cover): Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multi-million dollar industry. More than twenty years later her children found out. Their lives would never be the same.
A few words I would use to describe this book: Wow, shocking, unbelievable, informative, thought provoking, scary, moving, sensitive, stuff of science fiction but real life. This is the story of the first "immortal" human cells grown in culture in a lab. And they were taken from a black woman who was a poor tobacco farmer in the early '50's without her knowledge or consent. "HeLa" has since become the most widely used cell line in the world for research, numbering in the trillions and still exists today. It has brought scientific breakthroughs such as the polio vaccine, invitro fertilization and gene mapping. They have tried to clone them, inject with poisons, develop cures for cancer. They have shown scientists how viruses work and the effects of the atom bomb. And yet the family didn't know until twenty years after they took Henrietta's cells. The author tells such an incredible true story weaving between the scientific viewpoint to the human side to the family's struggles with the news and outcome. I could not put this book down. It is definitely not dry and textbook-y. Yet you learn so much. It brings up subjects of ethics, racism, human rights, consent, privacy, ownership, reimbursement all while bringing your emotions to the surface in what the family has gone through and the struggles of the daughter who never knew her mother as she trys to get answers and some recognition for her mom and her contribution to the world. As I was reading it, I kept thinking this would make a great movie, and have since found out that Oprah has picked it up for her OWN network. I highly recommend this read.