Saturday, January 7, 2012

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

What an amazing story.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a couple stories, actually.  First and foremost, it is about Henrietta Lacks. In 1951, Henrietta, a 30 year old wife and mother, is a black women living in Baltimore. After the birth of her fifth child, she is diagnosed with cervical cancer and begins treatment at John Hopkins' Hospital. Unbeknownst to her or her family, cells taken from the large tumor on her cervix were cultured and grown in the lab of George Gey. She died in pain, her body riddled with tumors and charred from the radiation treatments but her cells lived on as HeLa cells. These cells were used in the development of vaccines and in researching diseases and are still used today.

This is also the story of Henrietta's family. Those she left behind and how the cells have affected their lives. Her husband, her children and grandchildren all have dealt with it differently. Deborah, her daughter, is deeply affected by what is said and not said about her mother. She wants her mother to have recognition, and yet the truth of how her mother died, what happened to her sister, and the history of the cells all cause her anxiety and stress. Others have had so much anger with the hospital and doctors for not informing them. And some were just confused about what exactly it meant that Henrietta's cells were still living on. 

Deborah's relationship and interaction with Rebecca, the author, is really quite sweet and the stories she tells in her own words are wonderful. I really felt this was the heart of the book. Ms. Skloot is so open with the family and you can tell she really cared about them not just their story and information they could give her about Henrietta Lacks.

I found this book, deeply touching and very informative. It blended the science, the history and the human interest story so perfectly. I am so glad this one was picked for my book club because I probably would not have picked it up on my own.

 I highly recommend this one.

Source: Purchased ebook


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  1. I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't really expecting to because it isn't my normal type of read, but it was very much worth it!

  2. Kailana- Same here. I was very surprised to enjoy it as much as I did. :)

  3. I really loved the audio version of this book. so very interesting and touching.

    1. You know, I still am not good t listening to books. I have a few on my iPod waiting to be listened to, too.

  4. I read this book because it was nominated for a prize (the name eludes me at the moment). I really enjoyed it. Although it was hard for me to understand why there was so much anger on the part of her family . In the end I think I understood it better.

    1. I think it was a lot of misunderstandings and realizing that others were profiting from their mother's cells. It was a sad story to see how much it affected them.


Thanks for taking the time to comment! :)