The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

From the Trade Paperback editionThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Published by Broadway, an imprint of Random House

Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old black woman living in Baltimore, a mother of five children, when she died from cervical cancer. Her family had a vague understanding that before her death, she was being treated for her cancer at Johns Hopkins. What her family didn’t know is that the doctors there had taken samples of Henrietta’s cells, without her permission or even her knowledge, to be used in research. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story of these cells, but it is also the story of Henrietta’s family and how this one tragic event shaped so much of the rest of their lives.

Upon finishing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, all I could think was, “why did it take me so long to pick up this book?” I feel like every other person on the planet has read this book and for good reason – it is fantastic. But for that reason, I am not sure what else I can possibly add to the chorus of voices saying how great the book is.

What is so wonderful about what Rebecca Skloot did here is she didn’t just talk about the medical stuff. She gave an extremely well-researched and interesting background on the use of cells, how Henrietta’s were used, the legalities of it all, etc., but it never felt boring or weighted down with facts. Because, in addition to all that, this book is like a biography of Henrietta and her family. What happened to Henrietta had a huge impact on her husband, her children, and grandchildren, and Skloot went to great lengths to develop relationships with her family in order to tell their story. By the end of the book, I truly felt that I knew these people, that their story is one that should have been told long ago and thank goodness Skloot pushed and pushed to get Henrietta’s name out there.

I experienced The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as an audiobook, and I would highly recommend listening to this book. The narrator is Cassandra Campbell, and of course she does a fabulous job (as she always does). For whatever reason, I really enjoy nonfiction in audio and this is a perfect example of that. Definitely recommended!

Overall, I would highly encourage you to pick up The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks if you haven’t done so already. It is informative, compelling, and just as good as everyone has been saying! If you are an audio fan, I would recommend listening to the book as well.


11 thoughts on “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot”

  1. I need to read this book! I almost downloaded it on audio the other day, but went with Bossypants instead. I know that this story will probably make me mad and have my eyebrows raised up to my hairline, but it’s a story that I don’t think I can pass up. Glad to hear that it kept you so engaged and enthralled. This will be my next audio, I think!

  2. I loved this book too and it’s one of those where I would never have expected to except that I saw so many great reviews! I’m reading Emperor of All Maladies right now and think it’s funny that I’m reading the second book this year about cancer which considering I hardly even read non-fiction at all before is crazy!

  3. Our Books, Babes and Bordeaux read this a few months before you joined. We were all MANIC! Everyone loved it, and we were all sitting at a restaurant at a round table, all talking at the top of our lungs to each other at once. It was crazy. You couldn’t shut us up. And I agree the audio is the way to go here. Campbell is first class.

  4. I liked this book a lot and think Skloot is good writer – she managed to insert herself in the book without making it a book about her, but it did bother me that she wouldn’t take no for an answer from Lacks’ family.

  5. LOVED this book – I read it when I was on vacation at Disney and my husband kept yelling at me because I would read it in line as we were waiting to get on rides.

  6. I also listened to the audiobook and loved it too. I went with audio because I just didn’t have the time to read it and everyone was raving about this book. And I’m glad I did. I agree … narrative non-fiction works very well in audio.

  7. Just ordered this one about a week ago when B&N had bestsellers for half-price. Sounds like I’m going to be kicking myself wondering why I waited so long to pick it up.

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