I have heard so much about this nonfiction title and was ecstatic that our Valley Book Club picked it for its October discussion. It is what people now refer to as "narrative nonfiction" which to me means nonfiction that reads like a novel. Or in other words, nonfiction that I can read, understand, and even enjoy. And enjoy it I did!
Henrietta Lacks was a poor, black woman who was treated for cervical cancer in the 1950's at Johns Hopkins hospital. The cancer spread rapidly, possibly because her cheating husband was constantly giving her one venereal disease after another. While treating her, a doctor at Johns Hopkins took a cutting from one of her tumors and put it in a petri dish and gave it to a scientist who was obsessed with finding cells that would continue to grow outside the body. These cells became HeLa cells, which did live outside of Henrietta and whose "offspring" are still being used in science today. The funny thing was, no one told Henrietta or her family that those cells were taken, and no one told them after they had reproduced by the millions. No one told them after these cells helped to cure diseases like polio. No one told them until some writers began to question who the cell donor was and began to dig into Henrietta's family. But none were successful until Rebecca Skloot.
Not only do we have a wonderful story of science and research here, but we also get a vivid historical story of Henrietta's world as a wife, mother, and woman. Skloot has woven the intricate details of cell duplication and reproduction along with the sorrows and harsh realities of cancer, poverty, discrimination, and struggles with faith. These are all rolled into a fascinating true tale of the power of one: one woman gave us what no one else could at the time, and it's changed the world and helped millions of people. A powerful story of survival even in death.
Don't miss this one - put it on your list just as the Valley Book Club has. And PLEASE post your comments so I can share them with our club!