Monday, August 28, 2017

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot


I started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot without much knowledge about HeLa cells and particularly little know about their widespread use in medical research. Skloot tells the story not only of Henrietta and her family but of the evolution of medical research combined with glimpses into the history of race relations in America, at least in part. Skloot focuses on Henrietta and the Lacks family in a way that sometimes feels almost invasive but nonetheless is fascinating.  The Lacks family is a family like any other filled with interesting, multifaceted characters. There was an honesty and a rawness that was almost painful to read at times. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks demonstrates on almost every page just how interconnected we are. Skloot's investigation into the research that uses HeLa cells leaves little doubt that you and I are only alive today because of said research. Skloot tells a story that engages and enlightens by keeping the focus on the family and their experience even when she follows the HeLa cells to various labs around the world where they're used to make medical and scientific advances that benefit everyone even as the Lacks family struggles to make ends meet. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks weaves together the biography of a woman, a family saga, and a look into medical research in a way that is both thought provoking and enlightening.


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