Customer Reviews for

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Average Rating 4
( 2479 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1297)

4 Star

(680)

3 Star

(269)

2 Star

(125)

1 Star

(108)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

Most Helpful Favorable Review

269 out of 277 people found this review helpful.

A balanced, fascinating, beautifully written story about the first and still most important human "cell line" used in research

When I started reading this story, I did not know what to expect. I am a biologist and, though I do not work extensively on human studies (I study mostly bacteria) I have heard and read 100s of scientific studies that were based on work on "HeLa" cells. These cells are...
When I started reading this story, I did not know what to expect. I am a biologist and, though I do not work extensively on human studies (I study mostly bacteria) I have heard and read 100s of scientific studies that were based on work on "HeLa" cells. These cells are literally everywhere in research facilities. But other than on rare occasions, there is rarely much discussion of the person behind these cells (or in fact, behind any cells used in research). I started the book with a bit of trepidation because it would have been easy for the author, Rebecca Skloot to sensationalize the history of the person behind these cells.

But I was wonderfully surprised once I started reading the book (and in fact, could not put it down). First, the book is incredibly well written and crafted - weaving together three (or more) threads: the life of Henrietta Lacks, the obsession of the author with the story of HeLa, and the science behind human cell line research.

Second, and perhaps more important to me, the book is incredibly well balanced in telling the story. For example, it would have been easy for Skloot to vilify the scientists at Johns Hopkins who isolated the cell line and then continued to work on it as well as related topics. (I note, I know some of these people as I used to have an Adjunct Appointment at Johns Hopkins). But in fact, Skloot is meticulously careful about researching the facts behind the story and in trying to explain what happened in the context of the times (e.g., she does a good job of describing how concepts of "informed consent" have changed over time). Instead of simply portraying scientists as evil or blaming them for "stealing" HeLa cells, Skloot portrays scientists as they really are - frequently well intentioned but a bit naive at times about the repercussions of what they are doing. (I note, Skloot does not try to sugarcoat scientists or any others in the book either - when scientists clearly erred this is described. But what I really like about the portrayal is that the portrayals of the Lacks family, of scientists, and of others, is done without any excessive judging. She lets the readers come to their own decisions about whether what people did was good or bad or in between. In this way, the book is nuanced and is really a history of science book.

Finally, I think it is worth pointing out that this book is incredibly timely. As technology has advanced it is now becoming possible to determine the entire genetic makeup of individual people - and soon this will be possible at such a low cost that many people will have this done. In addition, medical research is accelerating at a dizzying pace - with many large scale studies being done involving samples from 100s-1000s of people. These studies have the potential to revolutionize medicine. But it is going to be very important for the scientists involved and for society in general to continue to think about the issues associated with "sharing" information and samples. The HeLa book is an important addition to this discussion and is written in such a way that just about anyone can read and understand it.

posted by JonathanEisen on February 13, 2010

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review

Most Helpful Critical Review

81 out of 84 people found this review helpful.

Download The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks For Free

Download The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks For Free From Here goo.gl/rGO5C

posted by 9114493 on August 5, 2011

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 680 review with 4 star rating   See All Ratings
Page 1 of 34
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Amazing

    Well written, intimate and unbiased. It will make you think hard about research, ethics and the mytery of life. Bravo "Miss Rebecca"! This should be required reading for any ethics class or health care program

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not fluff..

    I usually read fluff--light mysteries or comedy stuff. Why in heck did I buy a book about human cells? I asked myself that when I first started reading this book. Then the book grabbed me. Yes, it's about the cells taken from a woman's malignant tumor, and it's about how they lived in labratories when all other cells before had died (it was 1951--these were the first cells to survive out of the body for any length of time). The cells multiplied, even after the woman was long dead. The book tells how the cells had been experimented on, the places they'd traveled (the moon for one), and the diseases they'd help cure. The book is also about the family of the woman and the author's struggle to find out what the heck happened: How the woman, Henrietta Lacks, had died; who she had been when she was alive, and how her family suffered because of her death and the mystery surrounding her death.

    The book isn't fluff, so it's a bit dryer than I'm used to, but I did read it to the end. I learned something about cells and about Ms Lacks' life and especially about her family. The author did a fantastic job of traveling around talking with the family, and traveling with Henrietta's daughter to try to learn Henrietta's medical history. I'd have said "to heck with it" if I'd been the one going though the ordeals of getting to know the family, but the author stuck with it, gaining an insight and affection for the struggling family of this woman.
    I'm glad I finished the book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    Very good book

    Science isnt my strong point so i was a little worried the book would be too "scientific" but its more of a bio with hints of biology in it. I really enjoyed the book and the author did a wonderful job painting vivid images in my mind. I will never look at cells the same! The only reason why i rated it 4/5 was because after the story is done, theres about the 50 pages of arguement & facts regarding cells which was a bore to me and got skipped. Other than that... GREAT READ!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2010

    Great Book

    This is one of the best books of the year!!! Well done! Keeps you reading well into the night, couldn't put it down!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2013

    Great Read

    I decided to read this book based on the synopsis. I am more of a literature buff. This book was very intriguing. It was very easy to follow for someone who is not into science. I very much enjoyed how the backstory was intertwined into the "present day" story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Author Rebecca Skloot spent years researching this story, patien

    Author Rebecca Skloot spent years researching this story, patiently gaining the trust of surviving family members, becoming friends with many of them and even becoming like family to at least one. She grew to care about the characters involved in her story, and wanted to bring some humanity to Henrietta and her descendants.

    While the tissue samples were used for private laboratory experimentation without Henrietta's knowledge, you get the feeling that if she'd known about it, she would have agreed to it. She was by all appearances a kind, generous, giving woman, and probably would have readily agreed to donating her tissue if she thought it could help anyone. But the way they were taken is indicative of the tmes. They didn't need permission to obtain or retain tissue or organs from you during surgery or procedures, if obtaining such wasn't harmful to the patient. And a time when there were rumors of white doctors kidnapping blacks on the streets around John Hopkins and doing research and experiments on them. This was not a totally preposterous idea, as doctors had been testing on black citizens for decades without their knowledge. With the way that the Lacks family was misled and even lied to, who can blame them for their mistrust of the medical and scientific community?

    Perhaps the most indelible character in the book, aside from Henrietta herself, is that of Henrietta's daughter Deborah, who is the toughest for Rebecca to win over, and yet their relationship grows to be the deepest and most significant. On a personal level, one of the things that I loved most about Deborah were her attempts to do what was best for her kids, and her desire to educate herself and to understand more of what happened to her mother's cells and what they meant to science and medicine.

    I loved the names of the family members that made up this story and I noted at one point “Who needs fiction with colorful characters like these?”

    My final word: This book brings to life a woman who died over 60 years ago, and tells Henrietta's story and that of her family with compassion and respect. The book is easy to follow, and isn't muddied with complicated scientific principles or language. The author is a layman, and she writes this story as a layman. This book is great for a controversial book club read, as there are so many ethical questions in regards to what the doctors did and how the scientific community has benefited from Henrietta's cells, while her family can't even get medical care.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 15, 2012

    It¿s almost impossible for me to pass up on a book about social

    It’s almost impossible for me to pass up on a book about social injustice, so when I read the synopsis of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I just knew I would have to read it. Admittedly, I went awhile without buying the book, but I always had the intention of doing so, and I finally did.

    When I first started reading this book, I felt like an idiot. The story centers around the injustice done to Henrietta Lacks and how it affected her family and the world. Apparently, a doctor took cells from Henrietta Lacks and later sold them. The cells (known as HeLa) have now been used for decades by scientists to create cures and vaccinations for various diseases. As you can imagine, the explanations of what was done to Henrietta and her cells included a lot of scientific lingo. Since English is my strong point and I haven’t taken biology in six years, I was naturally lost in the terminology.


    Henrietta Lacks

    Despite all of this though, I still had a hard time putting the book down. I willingly trudged through the scientific mumbo jumbo so that I could get to the bits of treaure: the parts in which we learn about the people behind the story. Rebecca Skloot wrote about the people involved with such honesty and understanding, that I could not help but be on the family’s side.

    Although the scientific portions of this book can be a bit confusing, I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys reading about people who are able to come to terms and move on with injustices in their past.

    If you do read the book and enjoy it, you’ll be happy to know that Oprah Winfrey is planning on making a movie adaptation of it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 21, 2012

    Great Read

    If you enjoy medical history you can't pass this book up. Great detail, but not so much that the book feels like it's dragging on.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Great read

    I loved reading this book. I have not read many non-fictional texts but I was intrigued by how this came together. The delivery of henrietta's story is not to be forgotten. The author was able to meld her journe of discovey with Henrietta's tale. This text also makes you wonder how far people are really willing to go in the name of science...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2011

    TRULY LOVED IT

    Buy this book, and find out about the woman and family behind the HeLa cells....you won't be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    Great book!

    This is such a fascinating book that you just cannot put down

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    Very eyeopening

    Very eyeopening about the injustices of science

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 22, 2011

    great journey

    This book was a great journey that everyone should take. I love that the author gave life to the family of Henrietta Lacks while at the same time providing readers with details of the life of the cells. It's a must read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2010

    Highly Recommended

    This is a story everyone should read. It is well written and tells an amazing story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2010

    Interesting but not to scientific

    I enjoyed the family storytelling. The scope of how the HeLa cells have helped medicine( and science in general ) may not ever be accurately measured. Henrietta is not a hero, but her legacy is.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 24, 2010

    A Serious PageTurner!

    My what can i say about this book?It is a very interesting Book,I had been waiting for it to come out,i had read about it and as soon as it hit the store i bought it and finished it A.S.A.P!It is a very sad story and i learned alot about Cell's,For it being her first book Rebecca Skloot did a wonderful tribute to Henrietta Lacks And the way she wrote it is just a good read,I hope she write's more book's in the future,I wish her Family could get some type of compensation from these Cell's and if only maybe they could get a Pro-Bono lawyer to help them i think that is all they were wanting was legal help,Maybe it's to late,I am glad to see her family is growing and maybe they will be noticed.Either way i enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it to anyone!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 17, 2010

    A must read for medical professionals & students!

    Rebecca Skloot has written a book that certainly sounds like it could be science fiction, but in truth it is incredible science. However, it's not only about the science, but more importantly about who is behind it all. She has put a very real face to one of the most important medical research discoveries of our lifetime and given an appropriate name to the HeLa cells used in that research all over the world; Henrietta Lacks.

    This book recounts the life of Henrietta, the death of Henrietta and the immortal cells she left behind that became the basis of many life saving discoveries in the medical field.

    Sounds like a generous donation to the medical community, doesn't it? But, what if Henrietta and her family had no idea any of this had taken place? They didn't know that her doctor had taken the cells, and upon realizing how unique they were, shared and traded them with other researchers. They especially were unaware that these were eventually being sold for a profit among labs and medical companies. Was this a case of explotation or was it simply how science progresses?

    The author finds the surviving family of Mrs. Lacks and realizes there is far more to the story than it would first appear.The more I read, the more fascinated I became with the complexities. My only disapointment was that there was almost too much information. I can't fault the author for being thorough, but a bit of editing might have made this a more concise read.

    The Lacks family are uneducated and living in poverty, struggling to understand how their loved one could have saved so many lives while her own could not be saved. The children hope that Ms. Skloot will not be another journalist to take advantage of them, but that she will give their mother the place she deserves as a real person, not just a "cell donor". Ms. Skloot does exactly that and I believe they would be very happy with the care she has given to the subject.

    It's my opinion that everyone studying medicine & science should read this book to gain insight as to the genuine lives of patients. The understanding that there is much more to a person than their cells, their lab results, their disease, etc., is such an important lesson to be learned.

    To take a quote from the book, stated by the assistant who helped retrieve the cells while Henrietta was in the morgue, "When I saw those toenails I nearly fainted. I thought, Oh geez, she's a real person. I started imagining her sitting in her bathroom painting those toenails, and it hit me for the first time that those cells we'd been working with all this time and sending all over the world, they came from a live woman. I'd never thought of it thay way".

    I would also highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the ethical and legal aspects of the medical and scientific communities. There is also a significant component relating to the Johns Hopkins, the black community and black history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2010

    A compelling personal and public history

    This book brings together an amazing family narrative with the social histories of public policy, medicine, scientific research, race relations, religion, and the law. Rarely have I read something which ties together so many important strands of twentieth-century history in such a readable way. Although I read it independently, I could imagine it as a wonderful choice for a book club, or as part of an American history reading list.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2010

    It was okay

    I have never written a review before but i will try.

    It was okay. At first it was a little hard to read but it got clearer. Overall I liked it there are things that could be improved, but it was interesting.


    (By the way I am 12 )

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2010

    Fascinating, compassionate and precisely accurate account of how medical research affects everyone.

    I purchased this book as a gift. However, I wanted to make sure it was not scientific or dry. I started to read it, anticipating only a few pages to make my decision. I became so fascinated with the story, the characters, the process of medical research as the author describes it that I could not put the book down. I had to order a second copy because I did not want to give a used copy. I have already recmmended it to many friends. If I were a high school teacher, I would ask every student to read this book. I found it an unbiased picture of sociological conditions in our country in the 1940s and 1950s. It provides understanding of the process of medical reasearch and how far we have come in 60 years. AND it is a compassionate story on one family's struggle to understand and deal with circumstances beyond their control. I feel that the author does a good job of telling the human story while bringing all the characters, science, and occurences from 1951 to the present time. This is not a difficult read. I found it fascinating, enlightening, and totally enjoyable.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 680 review with 4 star rating   See All Ratings
Page 1 of 34