Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

While the worlds of science, medicine, and the global economy are more closely intertwined than ever before, the role of the public is unclear. When Rebecca Skloot learned that HeLa cells, used in laboratories all over the world, originated from one woman who has been all but forgotten by medical community, she researched the history of Henrietta Lacks, her family, and the incredible legacy of her immortal cancer cells. After finding out that millions of dollars had been made from cells extracted from their mother without her permission, Lacks' family was understandably reluctant to talk to Skloot. And Skloot, who had no interest in putting herself into the book she was researching, found her interactions with the Lacks family becoming a key part of the story. It's obviously not easy to sum up, but it's a thought-provoking, multilayered book that will stay with me a long time.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


by Emma Donoghue

Five-year-old Jack has a good life. He lives with his Ma, who loves him very much, in a room filled with everything they need. Together they play games, watch TV, eat their lunch and clean up. As he tells us about his days, though, we quickly realize that something is very strange: the two never leave the room for any reason, and haven't since Jack was born. And we realize that Ma, though she does her best, is not actually happy - she's been held prisoner here by someone Jack calls "Old Nick" for seven years.

Though the setting sounds horrific, the tale is told by Jack, who, despite his unusual circumstances is a relatively normal and sweet kid. He's never known what he's missing. Their only window is a skylight, and for all Jack knows, there's nothing outside but "Outer Space." He separates things into "real" (things inside the room) and "TV" (things he's only seen on TV). Ma whisks Jack into the wardrobe at times when Old Nick visits, so the two have never seen each other.

This is one of those stories where the voice makes the book. It's an authentic voice - a bright, charming and frustrating 5-year-old - but also one you feel comfortable with even as the suspense builds and the two find themselves confronting the Outside. A remarkable book.