As a guy who is normally confused to the point of migraines by anything involving anything related to science, it was only the amazing writing talent of Rebecca Skloot and the mind-boggling story of the never-ending life of Henrietta Lacks that intrigued me beyond comprehension that allowed me to finish The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about Henrietta Lacks, a poor, African-American woman living in Virginia, and her life following her diagnosis with a very malicious case of cervical cancer. Although SHE may have died, she still is alive and well today. Confused? So was I. As it turned out, the cancer cells were multiplying so rapidly that even after she died, they survived and still reproduce today, creating the strand of cells known today as HeLa. This information was taken without consent of her family, who didn’t find out about this until nearly 20 years after Henrietta died.
Skloot presents her own story, alongside Henrietta’s, as she digs through the past trying to find out who Henrietta Lacks was, with the only databases being Lacks’s family and friends, who prove to be elusive and unwilling to share anything with her, due to anger at the white doctors for ‘stealing’ Henrietta from them.
In all, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an amazing story, highlighting racial issues that many people never knew existed, and showing us that no matter what, life will always find a foothold in this world, even after death.
Book Review by Brenden Cotter