Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Waiting to Read Wednesday (#22)

The Old(er) 
I have an embarrassing number of unread books sitting on the shelves in my personal library. Carole of Carole's Random Life in Books has given me the perfect excuse to spotlight and discuss those neglected books in her Books from the Backlog feature. After all, even those older books need a bit of love! Not to mention it is reminding me what great books I have waiting for me under my own roof still to read!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Crown Publishing 2010)
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo — to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family — past and present — is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences. [Goodreads Summary]
Why I want to read this one: Everyone was singing the praises of this one when it first came out, and I knew I just had to read it. I still haven't managed to get to it, although I still hope to read it one of these days.


The New
Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by the marvelous Tressa at Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss upcoming release we are excited about that we have yet to read.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Release Date: December 4, 2018 by Atria Books
A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale. [Goodreads Summary]
Why I want to read this one: I loved The Thirteenth Tale and after reading the synopsis  of this one, I knew I had to read it. I am already intrigued!

Before We were Strangers by Brenda Novak
Release Date: December 4, 2018 by Mira Books
Something happened to her mother that night. Something no one wants to talk about. But she's determined to uncover her family's dark secrets, even if they bury her.

Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn't sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound--the ominous thump before all went quiet.

In the morning, her mother was gone. The official story was that she left. Her loving, devoted mother! That hadn't sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn't just difficult--he was deadly.

Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend and a father and brother who'd rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn't whether she can uncover what really happened that night...it's what will remain of her family if she does?  [Goodreads Summary]
Why I want to read this one: Doesn't this sound deliciously thrilling? I love a good story about buried secrets being unearthed. 

Do any of these books appeal to you? Have you read them?

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  1. Ooh Before We Were strangers does sound good!

  2. I saw that they recently made an adaption of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and I've been meaning to read it since.

    My Waiting on Wednesday.

  3. Ooooh, I loved The Thirteenth Tale! Once Upon a River sounds fantastic as well!

  4. Oh yes Before We Were Strangers sounds wonderful thrilling!

  5. Nice picks! Your older book is well worth the read, and I'm curious about the new books as well.

  6. Before We Were Strangers - sounds like my sort of read!

    Here is my WOW Wednesday post. Jedi, you shall be!

    Happy Wednesday!

  7. You really do need to read Henrietta Lacks - the story is unbelievable and disturbing.

  8. I really enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, it was fascinating! Hope you get to read it soon.

  9. You picked three pretty interesting books. Before we were strangers sounds really good!

  10. All of these sound good, and two are already on my list!

  11. One Upon a River sounds awesome and my bird-loving dog Cass approves!

  12. All three of these look really interesting! I've enjoyed the Brenda Novak books I've read but I think I'd prefer her straight suspense like this one vs her more romance-y books.

  13. Quite an assortment here and I'm interested in all of them. Not sure I knew that Diane Setterfield had a new book coming. I'll watch for that one as I really liked The Thirteenth Tale too.

  14. I'm so glad you included ONCE UPON A RIVER! I LOVE Diane Setterfield's writing. THE THIRTEENTH TALE is amazing and I actually keep it, face out, on my top bookshelf because I love the original cover so much :D I also bought her BELLMAN & BLACX which was also exquisitely written. The subject matter wasn't really for me because death was central. This new one (which I didn't know about till now--thank you!) sounds like it's more in line with THE THIRTEENTH TALE so there's a VERY strong chance I'll be reading it. God knows when though lol

  15. I have Once Upon a River coming up, too, and Henrietta Lacks is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read. I hope you enjoy all your reads!

  16. I want to read Once Upon a River! I didn't know Diane Setterfield will have a new book out soon so thanks for the heads-up, Wendy.

  17. I agree The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is sooo well worth a read. As for your 'new' books I have to read Once Upon a River.

  18. I have been wanting to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks since it came out. It just seems like a really important read. I could totally see myself having a great time with the new Novak book as well.

  19. Hi Wendy, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks sounds good, I have seen it around. These all look good, especially the Brenda Novak one. Happy weekend :)

  20. Thank you all for stopping by and commenting! I hope I will enjoy these too. And it's obvious I need to get to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks sooner than later.


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