The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

” I tell you one thing – the story’s not over yet. You got your work cut out for you girl. This thing’s crazy enough for three books!”

During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college I worked as an intern for a small genetics company. I was miserable, I was only doing well in science because I had high reading comprehension. My ability to apply principles of genetics to everyday situations, wasn’t so great. But I do remember being amazed by the technology being used. It didn’t take very much research for me to find out that I was not working with HeLa cells during the internship, but as I came to learn from reading this book, many of the principles were a direct result f her cells – cells growing in suspension, identifying genetic markers.

The book was less scientific and far more personal than I expected it to be.  Rebecca Skloot spent years getting to know the Lacks’s life and history, with much resistance. I was torn reading about the family, deciding whether I felt a strong sense of injustice because of their not having seen any of the profit which their mother’s cells produced. Skloot is a true journalist,and does an excellent job being unbiased while also showing the humanity behind the facts. I was most shocked by how horribly painful and frightening being struck by something like cancer must have been prior to modern medicine. A diagnosis of cancer is rightfully still a daunting concept, but to imagine a time when so much less was known, and could be done, was sobering.

I really love reading books like this. Of course reading is enjoyable, and as an added benefit it is often educational, even though I don’t usually notice it. There is some incredibly pleasing,and obvious educational value about a book such as this that I really enjoy.

I would definitely recommend this book to others, particularly those with a background in science or ethics. However, for those that are reading just for the story, I’d stop before the last 100 pages. It dragged on and on for me. You know that feeling when you feel like the pages are multiplying no matter how many you read? I wasn’t thoroughly impressed by the travel stories of the author.

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