Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Last year, the book group said they wanted to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It was a bestseller at the time, so we waited until it had been out for over a year and a half. What we didn't know was that it was an eternal bestseller. The book group had to share copies and read it in half the usual time. But I think the trouble was worth it.

The author's extensive web site describes the premise of this odd hybrid of biography, investigative journalism, medical ethics and science this way: "Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry. More than twenty years later, her children found out. Their lives would never be the same."

Dwight Garner of the New York Times describes it: "A thorny and provocative book about cancer, racism, scientific ethics and crippling poverty, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks also floods over you like a narrative dam break, as if someone had managed to distill and purify the more addictive qualities of Erin Brockovich, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Andromeda Strain." You can read the Sunday NY Times book review here.

Check out the author's page for reading groups for the discussion questions and more. Book group member Marilyn recommends Real Simple's online book club blog posts about the book (parts 1: Life, 2: Death, and 3:Immortality).

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