Who would have thought that this book would be so engrossing? The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating book that I had a hard time putting down and I didn’t want to end. I was surprised because the topic is not something on the surface that would interest me. After all, the book covers a lot of ground on biological research, but does so in easy to understand way without a lot of medical jargon. I think you will also be pleasantly surprised when you read this book by Rebecca Skloot an award-winning science writer.
The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, who died in 1951 at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore from cervical cancer. However, before she died one of the doctors collected samples of her cells. Her cancer cells where the first cells that scientist’s where able to grow and are still being used in research today.
There are two story lines, the first follows the medical research and scientific miracles that result from the study of her cells and the second story line I would describe as the human interest side. Lacks was born in into poverty and raised by her grandfather on a tobacco farm in Clover, Virginia. She lived in a time when the medical wards were segregated by color and even the blood was kept separate.
This book also asks some interesting ethical questions. Is it okay to take cells for research without asking permission? What about selling cells to other researchers?
Looking for a book that is far from pedestrian and makes you think? This book was selected for both of my book groups and is a New York Times Bestseller. I highly recommend this book.