Erin Reilly-Sanders's Reviews > The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
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's review
Feb 06, 13

bookshelves: audio, adult, non-fiction
Read from January 15 to February 06, 2013

I think this book is utterly fantastic and everyone should read it. Since I am not well informed on contrary opinions, you may wish to consult those as well, but I also think how you like the book has to do with your expectations for it and your willingness to consider non-traditional forms of nonfiction. The book is not in chronological order, it doesn't focus just on "facts" (if we can even agree on what those might be), it doesn't restrain itself to just addressing the HeLa cells, and it's not written from some distant objective view point (if you believe that this is even possible). The brilliance of the book is that it is comfortable with breaking these rules and in doing so, it WORKS. The format (which is nicely examined in an interview with the author at the end of the audio version) allows the reader to understand how these cells are interconnected with people, history, science, sociology, race, poverty, property, health, family, and even religion. To me, this makes the story 100 times more fascinating because I see multiple ways that this story connects to me. I loved "hearing" Skloot's voice through the text and understanding her personal relationship to the elements of the story through transparent descriptions and commentaries. While this means that she can't be objective, I did feel that she presented multiple sides to many issues, allowing room for the reader to make up his or her own mind rather than being told what to think. My one criticism is that more visuals would have been appreciated (I did eventually check out a copy of the book form the library to see if there were photographs etc). I understand that there may have been limits to what was available and what the family would permit but things like a map or even the women dressed up as Henrietta would have been wonderful.
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