What’s it about? HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks – the woman from whom HeLa cells came – remained virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Author Rebecca Skloot spent 10 years finding out the true story of Henrietta Lacks. The result, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, weaves together three main stories: 1) a biography of Henrietta and her family; 2) the author’s research, including interactions with Henrietta’s family; and 3) the scientific progress which HeLa enabled.
Is the narrator any good? Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, who were both narrators of the immensely popular The Help, are both exceptional here.
The verdict? Both Audible and eMusic chose The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as one of the best audiobooks of 2010. For what it’s worth I agree 100% – Rebecca Skloot has written a fascinating story that explores the interplay between science, race, class, and ethics in the United States. Scientific explanations are clearly explained for the layman. The story of Henrietta Lacks and her family are handled with care and understanding. As one review I came across said, “this book will inspire you, break your heart, and teach you.” Well said. Now do yourself a favor and get this audiobook!