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Book Partially Written Locally Receives Overwhelming Praise

By Staff | Dec 1, 2010

For nearly seven years (2002-2009), Baristas’ Cafe customers could see a younger woman nestled at a corner table with her laptop, a latte, and a handful of books.Anyone who didn’t know her personally would guess she was just another out-of-towner doing local business and taking advantage of the cafe’s wireless internet. Then, later in the evening, she could be spotted in the pub below the cafe, sipping red wine and enjoying pizza and conversation with locals.

Then, in 2004, Baristas went from being a small town, no frills cafe to one of national notoriety due to a New York Times article, written by this woman, namely Rebecca Skloot. “We had people traveling to Baristas as a destination spot from several states away because of this article,” said Jill Shade, one of six Baristas owners.”It was pretty crazy seeing people show up and say, we drove from Boston, Long Island, or Chicago to see this place we read about in the New York Times.

But it wasn’t the article featuring Baristas that kept her busy for seven years in the corner of Baristas.Rather, it was her book that came out earlier this year, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.After 10 years of research and writing, Skloot has gone from virtual anonymity to a tireless globe-trotting speaker and lecturer.Her book has made a recent sweep of book awards and has hit the number one best-selling list on several charts and is being translated into several languages.Just last week, Amazon.com, America’s largest book retailer, named Skloot’s book the number one book of 2010, out-skirting other top contenders such as Jonathon Franzen, Steig Larsson, and Tanya French.Other awards and notables Skloot’s book has received have been: Kindle’s bestseller, Publisher Weekly top 10 of 2010, and the 2010 Heartland Prize.Skloot has also appeared on virtually every major television network news and talk show, and Oprah Winfrey is turning the book into a movie.

Also, within the last couple weeks, National Public Radio called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks one of the best conversation starters of 2010; it was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of 2010; one of the top 10 books of 2010 by Dwight Garner of the New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine, named it one of the Best Books of 2010; and Discover Magazine has named it as one of their Must Reads of 2010. Discover also named Skloot’s appearance on the Colbert Report discussing The Immortal Life as one of “Five Geektastic Moments From a Year in Television.”

“A few weeks ago I receive a post on Facebook from Rebecca: ‘check your email, Facebook, and text messages,'” says Jeffrey Shade, one of six Baristas owners. “I find out Rebecca’s going to be in Morgantown as the keynote speaker for the 2010 David Hardesty Lectures and she was wanting to know if I could make it over for dinner.She was homesick for West Virginia and New Martinsville, but didn’t have time to make it over for a visit.In the beginning of her lecture, attended by over a thousand people, Rebecca talked about her special relationship with West Virginia, New Martinsville, and especially Baristas Cafe and Pub.It was good seeing my friend, but a bit strange seeing her under lights and with an entourage of reporters and personal assistants. When she finally finished the post-lecture book signing, she and her entourage had to wake me up on a sofa outside the lecture hall.She said it felt like seeing a real friend, someone just casually hanging out to see her as a person and not as ‘the author’.”

Author Rebecca Skloot

In the acknowledgments section of the book, Skloot writes, “Jeff and Jill Shade helped me stay human during months of endless work, providing friendship and fun, beautiful property to walk my dogs on, and Baristas and JJS Massage, my favorite cafe in the world, where Jill kept me well fed and caffeinated, and Jeff massaged the knots he called ‘writer’s blocks’ from my arms, poured drinks when I needed them, and talked with me for hours about my book.I thank the town of New Martinsville, W.Va., for taking me in.And Heather at The Book Store, who tracked down every good novel she could find with a disjointed structure, all of which I devoured while trying to figure out the structure of this book.”

Although her schedule is already booked for the next year, Skloot has promised to include Baristas and New Martinsville on her book tour.