Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book doesn't seem like the usual type I'd read. Something about the aspect of conspiracy, as well as the promising of a compelling biography drew me in. It ended up being quite a great mix of those plus science, humor, and then somehow it managed to capture me the same way fiction always does.

This author has a unique ability to just make non-fiction read like a fictional story does in it's ability to easily intrigue. One point of her way of storytelling that drew me in was in her manner of not belittling the people she interviewed during her journey to find out who Henrietta Lacks was. She's speaking with uneducated individuals, those that use phrases and words that aren't entirely grammatically correct, and yet, she just offers it as it is. Never speaking down to those people as she spoke with them, and never speaking down to them as the storyteller along her writing. That made this book so enjoyable to read for me. I was able to hear their journeys through their own words, and really capture where those journeys took them because of it. All the while, without prejudice or judgement because they themselves were seen clearly. It made it such a human travel, and you can see that the author really connected with these people along the way.

Whether or not you agree with how the HeLa cells were harvested, or what happened with Henrietta and her family, the tale itself is compassionate, tragic, joyous, and honest. All information and sources were documented in detail at the back of the book, and her research was thorough. It was a fascinating delve into society, culture, and towns that no longer exist. As a lover of history, I ate up every word of it. As a lover of science, the facts and details of the cells use was appreciated. I would love to read future biographies from this author if she writes them.

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