I finally got around to reading this book, with the reluctance that I seem to reserve for bestsellers, once two close friends recommended it. And I have to admit, it is a good book.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Read by Cassandra Campbell with Bahni Turpin.
In case you’ve been hiding somewhere, and missed the buzz surrounding this book when it came out last year, here’s the basic premise: In the early 1940s, doctors at Johns Hopkins harvested some cervical cancer cells from a black patient named Henrietta Lacks. Lacks died, leaving behind a husband and five young children, none of whom knew anything about the cells. The cells lived and spread, forming the first easily replicable human cells in culture. They have become a mainstay of medical research, helping with discoveries from the polio vaccine to cancer and transplant medicines and whole hosts of other things. Meanwhile, the Lacks family lived on in poverty, unable to afford basic medical services. Skloot weaves together the story of what the cells have done with Henrietta’s story, her family’s story, and the ten year journey that Skloot and the Lacks family took to learn more about Henrietta and her cells. All of this also brings up big questions about ethics and power in science and medicine. I’d heard just about all of this from the interviews and reviews I read before touching the book; it was still a pleasure to listen to. It makes for a fascinating story with enough going on to appeal to just about anyone.