We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Audiobook

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Regular Price:$31.93
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Audible Editor Reviews

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is both a story of scientific progress and a biography of the poor Southern family whose matriarch, Henrietta Lacks, made that progress possible. It is also a critical exploration of the interplay between science, race, class, and ethics in the United States. Finally, it is, at times, the personal narrative of Rebecca Skloot, a reporter who worked for 10 years to learn these stories and to tell them. Cassandra Campbell’s performance captures the full range of tone in these elegantly woven narratives. She delivers what the story demands of her, uniting several storytelling styles into one single, dynamic voice.

In her narration, Campbell makes particularly masterful use of distance and proximity. At some points in the story, she has the cool tone of an investigative reporter, duly noting the gruesome evidence of patient mistreatment at the Hospital for the Negro Insane in the 1950s or the horrors of medical malpractice in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. When she tells the stories of the members of the Lacks family, her voice is warm and compassionate, but still carries the distinct distance of a biographer/observer. And, at a few rare but poignant moments in the story, Campbell’s voice sounds exposed and intimately close to the listener’s ear, as the narrative brings us inside Skloot’s own struggle to understand and cope with the uncomfortable truths and thorny issues Henrietta’s story raises.

Bahni Turpin, who performs the dialogue for all the members of the Lacks family, supplies those voices with more than the appropriate dialect. Though she speaks for several different characters — some of them appear only briefly or infrequently in the story — Turpin manages to give unique weight and depth to each. Her portrayal of Zacharia Lacks, Henrietta’s youngest son, is perhaps most exceptional in its taciturn conveyance of anger, love, and pain. —Emily Elert

Publisher's Summary

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells, taken without her knowledge, became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first immortal human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than 60 years.

If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons - as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bombs effects; 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 remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now, Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the colored ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henriettas small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta's family did not learn of her immortality until more than 20 years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family, past and present, is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

©2010 Rebecca Skloot; (P)2010 Random House

What the Critics Say

"One of the most graceful and moving nonfiction books I’ve read in a very long time…The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks…floods over you like a narrative dam break, as if someone had managed to distill and purify the more addictive qualities of Erin Brockovich, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Andromeda Strain.…it feels like the book Ms. Skloot was born to write. It signals the arrival of a raw but quite real talent.” (Dwight Garner, The New York Times)

"Writing with a novelist's artistry, a biologist's expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force." (Booklist)

"Science journalist Skloot makes a remarkable debut with this multilayered story about 'faith, science, journalism, and grace.'...A rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society's most vulnerable people." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.5 (8410 )
5 star
 (5322)
4 star
 (2164)
3 star
 (670)
2 star
 (161)
1 star
 (93)
Overall
4.6 (6564 )
5 star
 (4528)
4 star
 (1413)
3 star
 (455)
2 star
 (104)
1 star
 (64)
Story
4.5 (6531 )
5 star
 (4321)
4 star
 (1649)
3 star
 (441)
2 star
 (70)
1 star
 (50)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Victoria Stillwell 04-26-16 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic"

    Truly touching and interesting, combining science, history and a personal story in a fantastic way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel 04-26-16
    Samuel 04-26-16 Member Since 2017

    I love audio books and podcasts. I am a nerd but a slow reader so these books are a truly amazing.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    82
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Mind Blown"

    This book has everything i love. A complex and interning story that is well written and weaves in the present day and history that i have never heard before. The author also touches on important social justice issues involving race, education, income inequality, informed consent, and medical research. This book informs and challenges on multiple levels. It should be taught in ever college introduction class.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Value Viewer 04-23-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    117
    29
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Emotional and much needed human story"

    I am so glad that the author decided to pursue this story and write it in a way to tell the story of the woman and her family. It put a personal touch to what happened to people in a time when they had no say, nor did they understand. Times have changed and science is now among us and destined to enrich the lives of the future. Henrietta's cells have made advancement in science and helped so many.

    My hat is off to this author. Well done!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter E. Doria 04-20-16 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing"

    This was an awesome story that had plenty of drama and scientific history. What a great story, at times a little difficult to remember what year you're in due to the complexity of the story. The interview at the end really helped to explain why this was.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carrie C Mpls, MN USA 04-18-16
    Carrie C Mpls, MN USA 04-18-16 Member Since 2015

    MommyBuyer

    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting Topic & Facts"

    The fact that Henrietta's cells are so unique & have helped treat so many diseases is unbelievable, shocking, riveting & heaven-sent.

    I'm sad to see that so many people can only see it from the negative side - they choose to believe that she was taken advantage of, they can only complain about her family not getting anything out of it. Are humans really this greedy and self-centered?

    I was disappointed to see so much of the book dedicated to the political side of this issue & giving credence to these negative thoughts.

    I would have loved to hear more of the human story - about how she lived her life. I would have loved to hear a dozen personal stories about how Henrietta's cells helped save others' lives, & how grateful those people were when they realized it was all due to one special, humble lady.

    The bottom line to me is that Henrietta received special care that she could not afford. In return for the care, her would-be discarded cells were used for priceless research that has bettered the lives of human-kind all over the world.

    It is an astonishing blessing. I would willingly give away my cells with no greedy self-serving thoughts if they could be used for such important research.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Denece L. Gerlach 04-14-16 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Definitely worth it!"

    Great book. Eye-opening information. Great narration. Definitely worth buying! The hard copy has pictures. Wish they could integrate that feature into audio books as attachments...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tara Wilson Ann Arbor, MI United States 04-10-16
    Tara Wilson Ann Arbor, MI United States 04-10-16 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    20
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "very informative "

    very unbiased documentation of a much needed life story to be told. sometimes the science was boring but necessary for the full effect of the story. performance was amazing with keeping you into the story

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Little Rock, AR United States 04-06-16
    Amazon Customer Little Rock, AR United States 04-06-16 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Simply must be read! "

    The nuanced and extensive true narrative of the Lacks family, medical history and ethics. Skloot takes no short cuts in tackling these issues and engaging the reader in the very human tale of Henrietta Lacks.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anna E Key. 03-30-16
    Anna E Key. 03-30-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    36
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great insight into science and it effects"

    I learned so much from this book- basic cell and research science, medical history and its impact on the poor and minorities, as well as the current laws governing cell research. One point I think that needs to be emphasized is how difficult it would be for research progress if donors were to place limits on how cells and tissue could and couldn't be used. There is so much collaboration, sharing, and overlapping of research areas, that tracking such permission limitation would severely hinder scientific discovery. Excellent narration with bonus author interview at the end.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 03-25-16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not your typical science book."

    Incredibly compelling- I learned so much not only about HeLa cells but more importantly Henrietta.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.