Monday, October 03, 2011

FIR Book Review 1 ~ The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

 (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.


Marg said...

Hi Susanne,
I have that wonderful book in my hands and have been reading is one inspiring book and really makes you think. Happy to hear that Oprah has it on your network.
It's refreshing and causes you to think.

JoannaTopazT said...

This one is definitely on my TBR list, too. Sounds like it would also make a great book group discussion book.

Susanne said...

Joanna: It absolutely would make a great discussion book. It's perfect for a book club! You'll be talking for weeks.

Marg: It really does make you think, for sure. I'm hoping the movie does it justice.

Carrie said...

I'm going to ignore the fact that Oprah recommended it and focus on the fact that you did. ;D

It DOES sound downright fascinating and informative. Definitely a thought-provoking read so I'll keep an eye out for it!

Faith said...

WOW! this sounds amazing! i haven't heard of it but it sounds intriguing! And it sounds like too "out there" to be true! I think my hubby would even like this one! lol...thanks for sharing! (and guess what? i finished my 2nd FiR book this weekend!! mainly because it rained all day saturday so no hiking trip! ) my review will be up later.

Kathie said...

Sounds fascinating Susanne! I'm going to check the library for it.

ruthhill74 said...

This is one of the books I plan to read one of these days. I have finished one book for the challenge, but I am waiting on a giveaway from the author!

By the way, thanks for the welcome. Check out my blog some time if you like.