Cells from Henrietta Lacks’ cancerous cervix were the first to ever be cultured in a lab in perpetuity making the woman they came from in some ways immortal. The cells were taken just before her death and without her permission thereby becoming on the one hand a source of great scientific richness and on the other the bane of her surviving, very poor, largely uneducated African American family. Skloot does an excellent job of explaining the science and personalizing the plight of a family overwhelmed by America’s medical research establishment.
The characters in this book – racist, southern white women in the early sixties and the black maids that work for them – are so believable, I rooted for my favorites, hissed beneath my breath at villains, celebrated triumphs, and felt gloomy for days when things went awry. Stockett captures personalities and gives each person a voice so full of accent and southern charm that the entrapment of race relations in Mississippi at the very dawn of civil rights is played out in the language itself. If you have any chance at all of listening to the Audio book, do so. It won the 2009 award for best audio book and with good reason. The actors will put you in a theater.
Because I’ve really enjoyed all of Junger’s writing. This book is the first hand account of two years embedded with American troops in the recently abandoned Korangal Valley, Afghanistan.