I loved reading about a Baghdad I had never heard of before--a rich, cosmopolitan, and intricate city. But the portrayals of the author's relatives, from mighty little Bibi to grounded Hadi and a range of children and grandchildren, were by far the most interesting. The impact of the Chalabi family is both impressive and sobering in the context of a modern war-torn Baghdad. The book sped up furiously towards the end, and I feel that I missed out on several crucial years of Baghdad's history because the narrative shifted from Bibi and Hadi to the author's own life and recollections, which largely took place in Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere.
This is an excellent look into medical ethics and research in American history. The story of Henrietta and her family is heartbreaking and eyeopening all at once--how HeLa, the immortal remnants of their mother, split them apart and brought them together again.