The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Henrietta Lacks has been dead for more than 50 years but her cells have lived on and helped millions of people. She was a young black woman living in Baltimore when she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with cervical cancer. From there, she unknowingly becomes a tissue donor and the doctors working with her cancerous cells discover that they do not die. They just kept growing and growing. They were renamed HeLa.
The book follows Skloot as she goes on a long journey to discover exactly who Henrietta was and why the science world didn’t really know or acknowledge her existence. She meets Deborah, Henrietta’s daughter, who was always curious about her mother and is determined for her mother to be recognized.
I’m late with reading this popular nonfiction book but it was well worth the wait. It was amazing to listen to. The voice actor does a great job of keeping the reader interested, even during the scientific chapters. The heart of the book is the human interest aspect. Following the Lacks’ family was both uplifting and heartbreaking. Skloot doesn’t try to paint them in any light; she just speaks their truth as best she can. The ending hurt to read. Hearing about Deborah’s passing was a punch to the gut. But when she moved on, she was at peace with her mother’s legacy and with herself. I know she would have loved this book.