Monday, January 9, 2012

Reading: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Last month my book club read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by author Rebecca Skloot. The story is a little known and fascinating tale in the world of modern science. I remember learning about HeLa cells in Biochemistry freshman year of college; they are the test cells used in almost all medical research from studying the life cycles to testing pharmaceuticals. I, like many people I assume, never asked where these magical cells came from. Amazingly, they came from one little lady name Henrietta Lacks. The story is about the discovery of the "immortal" cell line after a routine biopsy. The life Henrietta and her children led after she was sent home never being what happened to her cells. And the lives of the scientists and the advancement of medicine because of the discovery of Henrietta's cell line. The book raises many questions about medical ethics, our right to our own bodies, and the luck that all of us have being born into a certain cell line, certain race, and certain social class. For any science lover, this book is a page-turner. The scientific jargon can become a little thick, but when the reader becomes lost in the scientific shuffle, one must imagine that so did Henrietta. The characters and setting develop over the course of the book as you slowly unravel the layers of each character. Because it is a true story you fight the pages until the end just to see what happened to everyone. The story is truly fascinating.

Read the New York Times book review HERE

Everyone in my book club really enjoyed the book. Our discussion lasted almost two hours. Overall, I gave it an 8.5/10, but the pickiest reader in our group gave it the coveted 10/10 rating. This was unprecedented. She said the story was well-written and held her attention, it taught her something new, and it forced her to brain to think. So there you have it. If you are looking for a good read, I would definitely recommend this one.


  1. I started this right before the school year began again and got completely sidetracked. :( Need to get back to it because I found it completely fascinating!

  2. I felt like it dragged a little in the middle, did you?

    But you're right, overall, it's fascinating.



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