Saturday, April 15, 2017

Just finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Whoa. Lots to cover for me here. But I promise I will keep it short and sweet.

First of all. I loved the book. I have had it for a while and pulled the ebook version a couple of weeks ago because honestly I wanted all the extra material it offered and I am thrilled that I did.

What a story Rebecca Skoot was able to tell. She found a family that was resistant to her, resistant to telling the story and basically completely resistant to everything and then after her tenacity opened up to her. I am so glad she took the reader, meaning me along for her ride. I felt like a partner in her research, trials and tribulations. She took a very complicated (and that is an understatement I think) topic and made it very easy to follow, understand and want to read more.

We learn some of the family's secrets. Some are hard to read and incredibly sad. We learn about the struggles Henrietta had throughout her short life and also many of her joys. There is lots of joy in the book. Everyone seemingly has a joyous moment that gets told and for that I was grateful to read. It wasn't just technical science jargon and sadness... there was joy.

There also was an element of family superstition and faith that Rebecca Skoot doesn't hide that the family believes (and I think we all do in a way). When bad things befall them them think it's Henrietta and whose to say it isn't. They find it's their answer and it's how the story is presented, not from the author's point of view but the family she is writing about which is difficult to do I would imagine.

Lots of medical ethical questions are raised in this book too and that is really important in a piece like this... was it ethical for the physicians to take the samples? Was it ethical for them to not tell her or the family? In today's medical ethics no.... is that yet another part of the HeLa legacy? Perhaps. Like Deborah said in the book "times was different". But still I have to wonder and I will wonder any time I go to the doctor from now on and will question what is being done with my genetic material. It's important and a good lesson to learn from all of this. I am not by any stretch saying that my cells, tissues or material have ANY value to science but neither did Henrietta. And look where we are.

Religion and Science are at odds in this book and bump up against one another quite often and it's not presented in a way that either is right or either is wrong and I appreciated that. Alot. It made both sides of those aisle compassionate. I felt great compassion for both the scientists and the family.

What a great story, great telling of the story and presentation of very heady material in an easy to follow and understand way. Thanks for the great read.

I have lots to think about and read more on In the ebook there is a prologue which provides more reading material which is amazing! Looking forward to reading more. I am grateful to Henrietta for her story and grateful to the author for telling the full story as well. It wasn't easy and I am glad that we were along for the ride.

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