The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
By Rebecca Skloot

I had no idea what to expect from this book.  

I thought the cover image was fantastic. Goodreads.com recommended it. But then it became the freshman summer reading book at WSU, so I hesitated.

Anyway, this is the true story of science. This is the true story of manipulation. This is the true story of chance and fate and memory and loss. This is the true story of medical breakthroughs and saved lives. This is the true story of family and lies and unanswered questions. This is the true story of the woman behind HeLa cells, the cells that are responsible for pretty much every vaccine, every new medical treatment, every new medical discovery since the latter half of the 20th century. This is the true story of Henrietta Lacks, who died of aggressive cervical cancer but whose cells have become truly immortal.

The narrative moves back and forth between the history of HeLa cells and their impact on the scientific community and Skloot’s personal experience with Henrietta’s surviving family.

I was blown away by this book. The level of research was incredible as was Skloot’s ability to demonstrate all that HeLa cells have done for the world and for medical discovery as well as the racial and historical implications. The fact that these cells are a multi BILLION dollar industry but Henrietta’s children cannot afford to visit a doctor had me tangled in a deeply complicated personal debate about property, family, medicine, public v private, right, and wrong.

Very rarely do I come across a book where I am not only engaged in the narrative, but also learn a ton of new information. The balance is difficult and many authors flounder. Skloot achieves it with perfection.

Read this book. 

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