by Erin K. | | 2 Comments | Tags:

Welcome to Week 2 of the Online Book Club discussion of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Aren’t you loving this book so far? I loved the story right from the first page. At the beginning, we meet Henrietta as she is heading to the hospital for the first time. She knows something is wrong in her body since she was able to feel and find a knot in her womb. It took such bravery for Henrietta to go to Johns Hopkins in the first place. She had to go to a segregated area, and she had to hear all sorts of scary medical terms that she didn’t understand.

Later, when learning about Henrietta’s radium treatment, readers see that doctors also took samples of Henrietta’s tumor without her permission. This is where Henrietta’s unique medical story really begins. What is your first impression of the fact that doctors took samples of Henrietta’s cells without her permission? Do you think she would have provided permission if she had been asked? I feel like she would have, not necessarily because she understood what would be done with the cells, but because I think she would have felt pressured by the doctors and would have done anything they asked.

The treatment Henrietta endured sounded barbaric. Doctors packed her insides with radium, and the treatment completely charred her skin. The saddest part for me was that Henrietta didn’t understand she wouldn’t be able to have more children. What did you think of her treatments?

Were you able to follow the science chapters easily? I thought they were pretty easy to understand. I don’t know much about cells, but the book made it clear for me how Henrietta’s cells grew and flourished. How did you feel about the science chapters?

Rebecca Skloot, the author, makes some efforts to connect with Henrietta’s family in this first section, but they are hesitant to meet with her. How do you think Skloot will break through their defenses and get to know more about their mother?

Henrietta passes away at the end of this section, but it’s just the beginning of her story. The next section talks more about her contribution to science.

If you’re enjoying Rebecca Skloot’s writing, you might enjoy watching these videos in which Skloot explains her process and how she injects facts into a narrative format. In this video she shares her strategy for recreating historical events.

She explains her system for using index cards to keep track of all of the characters in the book in this video.


Make sure you read section 2 for our discussion next week. I can’t wait to hear what you think, so make sure to leave a comment telling me your opinion!

2 Responses to “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Week 2”

  1. Carrol

    I am really enjoying this book. I am able to follow the details pretty easily.

    I have to admit I was bothered with the doctors and the things they did not clearly explain to Henrietta. She trusted them to tell her what she needed to know.

    Obviously, Rebecca Skloot proved to Henrietta’s family that she could be trusted. I think they know she wants to tell the truth, so they will open up to her.

    Thanks for the interesting videos. I really enjoyed hearing Rebecca Skloot explain her writing process. I cannot believe all of the details she collected to make this story so interesting. The second video reminded me of the “old days” when we collected information for research papers. We were always encouraged to put notes on index cards so we could easily arrange them. Rebecca obviously showed us how well that system could work!

    • Erin K.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the book, Carrol.

      I liked your comment about using notecards to write research papers. I had a teacher who introduced me to that system, so I used index cards throughout high school and college. It’s a pretty great system!

      I hope you continue to enjoy the book as you keep reading! I look forward to hearing from you next week!

Comments are closed.