What a great book! And man, am I in awe of the author, Rebecca Skloot, who did amazing reporting for this work of non-fiction. Henrietta Lacks was a poor woman who died in 1951 of cervical cancer at the age of 31. She left five children behind. But this book is far more than the story of her life - it's a book about scientific ethics, cancer, poverty, the legacy of poverty, racism and far more. Mrs. Lacks' immortality came from her cells. The cancerous cells, taken from her without her knowledge, were the first to be grown in culture. Those cells, known as HeLa, were reproduced over and over again and allowed research that led to medical advances on a variety of fronts, including the polio vaccine, chemotherapy and in vitro fertilization.
But Mrs. Lacks died in poverty and her children seemed to fair even worse. Her daughter Deborah at one points asks why, if her mother's cells were so valuable, could the family not afford doctors? Skloot reports this story down to the most minute detail, following the trails of the "immortal" cells as well as the lives of the Lacks family. It is a fascinating tale - moving in it's humanity and illuminating to the non-scientist. The Book Group unanimously loved it.