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In 1951 a young mother in Baltimore was dying from cancer. Cells scraped from her cervix, became the first cells ever that scientists were able to keep alive in a test tube and they have gone on to help create a polio vaccine, medicines for leukaemia, Parkinson’s disease, influenza and lactose intolerance, just to name a fraction of their uses. Henrietta’s cells, HeLa cells, changed the world for the better and also caused her family untold anxiety. In her book, Rebecca Skloot not only explains the fascinating scientific story of HeLa cells, but also Henrietta’s story starting in the tobacco fields of Virginia and on to Baltimore where she raised five children and where her family lives today. Skloot’s book poignantly spotlights the gross inequalities within the health system in the US and, after almost 70 years, their story has helped Henrietta Lacks and her family gain the recognition and thanks they deserve.
This was the Book Circle’s first foray into non-fiction. The science was clearly explained and not overwhelming, and the social issues, interwoven with medical triumphs, kept most of us turning the pages till the end.
We meet again on Thursday, 19 June at 7.30 pm to discuss The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.
Withiel Book Circle – reading list
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