Can one woman change the world? Well if she can't, then her cells will. What started as a simple check up at the doctor's office became a New York Times bestseller. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks begins with a young black woman by the name of Henrietta and her downward spiral with cancer. A small culture of her cells is sent to the lab and miraculously grows. Decades later her family finds out those cells started a multi-million dollar industry while they are left without health insurance. Henrietta's daughter, Deborah desperately searches for answers along with the help of the author Rebecca Skloot. From an amazing work of literature to the family's search for answers to the scientific facts, this book will interest anyone.
It's so interesting how Rebecca Skloot was able to put so many ideas into one book. What is really interesting, however, is Rebecca's struggle reasoning with faith and science. She was first interested in the HeLa story in science class when she was young. This interest is what led her to research Henrietta. So from the very beginning, Rebecca saw it from a historical and scientific view point. As she started meeting the family, Rebecca was introduced to the faith view point of the HeLa story. She struggled with fitting them together like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. Faith and science have always "butted heads" so to speak. Science normally trumps faith in the world because it can be proven or we can solve for a direct answer. Faith, on the other hand, is something many people grow up with and are not easily persuaded if something goes against it. Just as Henrietta's family chose to see HeLa as Henrietta's spiritual body, others will choose to view what happens in the world as God's doing. They don't question other factors. Scientists choose to see physical evidence or use theories or laws to explain what happens in the world. If something goes against their faith, then they will normally accept what they see in the lab over what they heard in church. Another part of this battle is our human qualities. Humans are quick to judge. If something goes against what someone has known their whole life then they quickly reject it without reason. Being Christian makes this even more difficult. If something goes against God's Word then most Christians say it is a fluke and reject it because it's not what they have been taught or read in the Bible. As one may say, being human is difficult enough. Being human and Christian in this world is even harder. Rebecca was not strong in her faith but when she was exposed to Henrietta's family and their faith, she really had to think about what made sense to her. Chapter thirty-six is a great example of this. Gary shows Henrietta some Bible verses about death and resurrection. For Gary and the others in Henrietta's family, the Bible is "simple and to the point". God choose Henrietta to be HeLa. That's it! Now Rebecca had to come to her own conclusion. She knew direct Bible verses that were very clear about death, but she also knew that scientifically, HeLa was alive due to the reproduction of telomeres. Faith + Science = a messy situation. It challenges both the mind and faith. A lot of the time there is more than one answer to the question and everyone has to choose which answer they think is right.
For me, as a Christian and a future science major, my brain went crazy during this book. In order for me to come to a conclusion I meshed both faith and science together. I have always believed that God has a plan for every human being. That's what the book of Matthew says. So then if God chose Henrietta to be a scientific miracle then I somewhat agree with Henrietta's family. Science, however, shows that the HeLa cells are no longer Henrietta's body. They were just a piece of tumor and now they are reproduced parts of the original cell culture. After a lot of thinking and much praying I came to my own conclusion on the issue. God's plan for Henrietta was to have her cells taken. She was supposed to be in heaven at the young age of thirty. I do not believe, however, that she is living through these cells. After all, they are not her original cells. They are part of the tumor that was in her body. Also, they are reproductions of the tumor cells. The original cell culture supposedly died soon after it reproduced. HeLa is simply cells. Henrietta is the woman that "gave" the cells and is now enjoying Heaven. Reading this book helped me to realize that I can distinguish faith and science but I can also use them both to come to a conclusion. Quick to judge is definitely a problem for me. I'd rather believe the Bible over a science book. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks made me think about my major in Biology quite a bit. I didn't know if I was sure I could handle all the science courses. I came to the realization that Biology had to be God's plan for my life. I have a huge support system that I can always go to for advice and since Concordia is a Lutheran school I can always talk to my professors about my questions. I believe that this book was beneficial to read. It made me think a lot and helped strengthen both my faith and decision to major in Biology. This book is truly amazing and I would suggest anyone to read it.