I've always been a prolific reader, but had been slacking a bit in recent months due to an on-going love/hate relationship with my bifocals and too much time lost in the abyss of Facebook. I am, by the way, losing the bifocal battle. It's much easier to slide my glasses down my nose, look over the top, and move my arms in and out until the book comes into focus. Easier. Really. Okay, maybe not, but it's how I usually find myself.
Lately I've stepped up my reading thanks to a book club on Facebook and a little web service called BookBub. I've only read two of the actual club selections, but at least it's inspired me with all the "booky" conversation. BookBub has inspired me with guilt, sending me daily emails filled with books I can download for free or at greatly reduced prices. I have a lot of new books staring back at me every time I fire up the Nook.
I've finished two books since Easter and I should mention before I tell you about them that I am not reviewing them in exchange for money or even a free copy of the book. It's simply that I've read them and if you're looking for something to read, you might be interested.
You don't know who Henrietta Lacks is or why she's "immortal?" There is a very good chance that she has touched your life in some way. Maybe a major way.
Henrietta was a poor black woman who died of cervical cancer in the early 1950s. Some of her cells were taken for research. Those cells became the first cells that science was able to keep alive. In fact, they absolutely thrived and as a result were used in a majority of medical research during the 20th century. Any break-through you can name most likely involved her cells, known as HeLa cells. They are still widely used today.
What made this book one that I couldn't put down wasn't just the science, which by the way Skloot managed to make fascinating. It was Henrietta, herself, and her family whom the author set out to find. She takes you from Henrietta's childhood farming the same plantation her family were once slaves on to the adult lives of her children and grandchildren. It is an eye-opening and often painful look into the life of poor black America. It made Henrietta, HeLa, a real person.
Skloot also brings to light some very big moral and ethical questions that still trouble medical research. At one time it was the norm to experiment on patients without their knowledge. That didn't really change until the late 20th century...and I have to admit I wonder if it's really stopped. What hasn't stopped because the courts have upheld it, is the practice of collecting tissue samples without patient consent. By law, once anything is no longer part of your body it no longer belongs to you and you have no say in what happens to it. In the U.S. alone, there are vast depositories of collected and saved tissues....tumors, umbilical cords, moles, fat, foreskins, breasts....chances are probably fairly good that some of your cells are frozen somewhere waiting to be used.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is not an easy read, but one that I do highly recommend.
The characters weren't deeply developed so I didn't feel any connection to them, the plot jumped around without smooth transitions and was full of holes, and for a Christian romance it barely paid lip service to God. The parts where faith is mentioned seemed rather forced and just stuck in so they'd be there. They didn't add anything or make me think.
Out of Control....don't waste your money. I'm glad it was a free Nook download for me.