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Book Review THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot

Book Review and Bonus Bookclub Questions

Book Review THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

This was our bookclubs pick this month and we had quite the discussion after finishing it. As always I like to share our review with you.

About the Author

Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine and Discover. She has worked as a correspondent for NPR’s Radiolab and PBS’s NOVA scienceNOW and is a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine. She is a former Vice President of the National Book Critics and has taught creative nonfiction and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburg and New York University. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was her debut novel and became an instant New York Times bestseller. It won the Chicago Tribune Heartland and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize. It was named best book of 2010 by Amazon.com. and the best book of the year by Entertainment Weekly, O Magazine, The New York Times, Washington Post, US News, and  World Report.

The Synopsis

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her a HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer, whose cells taken without her knowledge in 1951-became one of the most important tools I medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine,c cloning, gene mapping, and more.  Henrietta’s cells have been brought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing’ and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew

Our Review

Book Review THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

This truly was a fascinating book and my first question after finishing it was; Why did I not know about this? I was shocked that this was even allowed to happen. Even though the genre is non-fiction, we all agreed that it read like a book of fiction and had a lot of scientific details and data that quite frankly was over our heads, but it didn’t take us away from the story. It was still engaging and extremely informative.

The story takes place in the early ’50s, at a time, if you were black, the medical treatment you received, (If any) was far poorer than if you were white. The industry was corrupt and dishonest and the book made us realize just how bad it was and even though it’s still not perfect,  we’ve come a long way. We all felt angered by the way Henrietta’s family was treated and praised the author for such a thorough investigation and report of their story. She was honest and told it how it was. Raw and truthful. An unexpected incredible read.

Our Overall Rating

Book Review THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

COVER DESIGN – 5 STARS – The Photo of Henrietta on the cover is a classic one that is talked about often in the book. At first, we didn’t get the bright orange background, but if you look closely, it’s her cells. It was a surprising discovery and a fantastic idea for the cover.  

CHARACTERIZATION – 5 STARS – Skloot did a great job interviewing the family members and researching the history of the Lacks. Nothing was omitted. We learned of their faults, emotional struggles and the desperation they endured to find out the truth about Henrietta. 

STORY & PLOT 4 STARS – The vast amount of scientific detail that was included in the story was the only issue we had with the book.

OVERALL RATING – 4 STARS – An amazing book that we all agreed should be a required reading in medical schools, kept us engaged and enlightened us on how the medical industry use to be.

Questions to ask at your book club

Book Review THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

1 – After reading the book, are you on the side of the Lacks family or the Medical Industry. Do you think taking samples of her cells without her knowledge was okay?

2 – Do you think the Lacks family should have been compensated or at least received medical insurance for life?

3 – How often do you thoroughly read a medical consent form before signing it? Now that you have read the book, will you be paying more attention to its contents?

4 – Explain how blacks and whites were treated differently back in the ’50s when it came to seeking medical treatment. Were you surprised how differently they were treated?

5 – Describe the emotions you encountered while reading the book. What parts angered you? How did you feel during the moment Deborah saw the HeLa cells for the first time?

6 – If you discovered this had happened to you or a family member, what actions would you take?

7 – Did you know about HeLa cells and Henrietta Lacks before reading the book?

Buy the Book From Amazon

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