In a nutshell
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is more than just a story about a woman and her cells which are still alive till today. Not only have they been replicated, distributed, and used without the owner’s consent, but they have also saved millions of lives and earned big corporations a lot of money. And yet, nobody has heard of her until today. And yet, the Lacks’s family can’t even afford health coverage.
It’s a story which allows us and her family to learn of the life of a woman who continues to live on and save millions of lives throughout the world. It’s a story of family, love, loss, faith, trust and betrayal.
What I liked
I was a little apprehensive about reading it at first, fearing that it’d have too many scientific jargons that I wouldn’t understand and would need to google them. That’d be too much work. So I flipped through the first few pages and was immediately hooked. Skloot made it as simple and straightforward as possible. Most of the time, I understood it when Deborah (Henrietta’s daughter) explained it in her own words.
I must say, this is the best non-fiction book I’ve read thus far, but also a very disturbing one. The story of this family and what has happened to them, is really painful to digest, so much so that I wish it was fictional. I wish that it didn’t happen, and that Skloot is writing it to prevent it from happening.
It took 10 years for Skloot to write this book, and it’s clear why. The detailed research, the conversations that took place, the technique used to make this story flow fluidly, and to infuse it with specific detailed scientific information yet making it an engaging read, is a very arduous task. Gaining such personal information and building a strong relationship and trust with the Lacks family isn’t easy either especially with the racial conflict. But Skloot did it.
It’s hard not to be affected by this story of the Lacks’s family and not to feel their anger, frustration, loss, and sense of betrayal. It was even harder for me to hold back my tears at the end of this book. But throughout the story, we’ll also come across a few good, sincere people who offered help whichever way they could.
Everyone should and MUST read this book. Not only because it’s good, but because it creates awareness and makes one take a long hard look at the need for standardized health care in our society.
Let me end this review with one of my favourite quotes (from Deborah): When repeatedly asked if she was angry about what happened to her mother and mad at the doctors and researchers responsible, she replied, “…if you gonna go into history, you can’t do it with a hate attitude. You got to remember, times was different.”
Definitely a perfect 5. An unputdownable, this one!
Here’s the book trailer.