The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
This is the way you want to learn about a dry topic like the history of cell culture. Throw in some human intrigue, race relations, and the evolution of women’s health, along with clinical fact, and you’ve got a book that entertains and informs. The cast of characters is revealed like found treasure. Rebecca Skloot teases us with compelling character interactions in an attempt to let the facts blossom, and they often do. We discover along with her as she becomes a key character in her own book and uses her role to introduce us to the Lackses and everyone peripheral to the telling of their story.
I respect her journalistic objectivity as she resists delving to deeply into her personal impressions of Deborah, Zakariyya, Lawrence, and Sonny. As readers, she allows us to do this; and do this we must. That’s what makes this a fantastic book for reading klatches. Everybody will have an opinion regarding the characters, medical ethics, faith, choices and our lack of them–just so many discussion topics from which to choose.
I read this book after it had gained some traction and notoriety in bookstores. The burning question for me personally, was, did Skloot come clean on her assertion to share some of the proceeds of her now very successful book (soon to become a movie), and she has. I had to explore the internet a little to find this out, but it was gratifying in light of the fact that the Lacks family had been preyed upon by takers for so long. See http://henriettalacksfoundation.org/