Quicklet on Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Lacey Kohlmoos

What's in the book?

Quicklets: Your reading sidekick!

    • About the Book
    • About the Author
    • Synopsis
    • Chapter-By-Chapter Commentary & Summary
    • Key Character List
    • Key Terms and Definitions
    • Major Themes and Symbols
    • Interesting Related Facts
    • Additional Reading



Henrietta Lacks was a beautiful African American woman who always painted her toenails red. She loved to dance. She had a big laugh and mischievous eyes. She had five children whom she loved with every inch of her soul. No one knows what her favorite color was.

Henrietta Lacks was full life, but she died in 1951, her body consumed by tumors that had started in her cervix. She was buried in an unmarked grave and even though she was greatly loved, no one talked much about Henrietta after she died. The winds of time would have quickly swept away all signs of this vivacious woman had it not been for one thing: her cells were immortal.


Lacey is a writer, traveler and lover of the arts. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BA in Drama & the Studies of Women and Gender, the only thing she knew for sure was that she wanted to travel. So, she embarked on a 10 ½ month round-the-world trip. Lacey then traveled to Costa Rica where she spent one year teaching elementary school English in a small mountain town. Throughout her two years of travels, she has always kept a blog.

In 2009, Lacey earned her MA in International Development and began working for the National Democratic Institute where she became the Citizen Participation Team’s primary writer. After living and traveling in 26 different countries, she has settled down for awhile in Leadville, CO where she spends her days skiing, hiking, taking pictures and writing. Lacey loves writing about travel, gender issues, international development and the arts.


The prologue not only gives the reader an introduction to the story of Henrietta Lacks, it provides insight about Rebecca Skloot. Here is a young woman who has spent ten years researching a person with whom she has absolutely nothing in common. And why? Rebecca is intrigued by the medical and personal mystery surrounding Henrietta. It is clear that her teenage curiosity in the woman evolved into a full-blown, life-altering obsession.

The simple, almost clinical, description of Henrietta’s first appointment with Dr. Howard Jones hints at something sinister just below the surface. The reader knows that Henrietta is doomed, otherwise the book wouldn’t be in existence, but the shiver running up the spine comes from something else: Dr. Jones’s note that the lump hadn’t been noticed before. This means that either the medical professionals that had seen Henrietta previously were negligent during the examinations or the lump is incredibly fast-growing. Both options are incredibly disturbing.

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