Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Firstly, this is not the type of book that I normally read. It is a documentation of the life of Henrietta Lacks, a poor, black married woman who dies at a too young age, of cervical cancer. Cells are taken from her tumour, postmortem, and this book catalogues the reproduction of the cells and the research that was done with them... without Henrietta's consent.
The author, Rebecca Skloot, shares snippets of Henrietta's and her family's life interlarded with chapters on the advancement of scientific research done with HeLa (Henrietta Lacks) cells.
The first half of the book has more recounting of Henrietta's turbulent, dysfunctional life and offers a more compelling read whereas the second half focuses on the science of cell reproduction and took more effort on my part to read.
What is most pronounced in this book is the contrast between the poverty of the Lacks family and the work, revenue and advances in science generated literally by her cells.
I give it 3 1/2 stars out of five, not for the storytelling or the journalistic reporting but for the story of how one human being unknowingly changed the world.