Skip to content

Book Club: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Chapters 31-33

young adult cancer book club

Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club!  We are reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot! Catch up on Chapters 1-3, Chapters 4-6, Chapters 7-9Chapters 10-12, Chapters 13-15, Chapters 16-18, Chapters 19-21, Chapters 22-24, Chapters 25-27, and Chapters 28-30.

Let’s get started!

Chapter 31.  Hela, Goddess of Death.  2000-2001.

This chapter felt indulgent to me.  We didn’t learn much more about anyone and instead, saw more of nervous, Deborah.  A single redeeming piece of info from the author was when she started giving Deborah “stacks of information” that she discovered while researching Henrietta.  With each piece of information, Rebecca included “notes explaining what each thing meant, clearly labeling what was fiction and what wasn’t, and warning her about anything that might make her upset.”  Finally!  Someone is actually filling Henrietta in!

– Mallory C

Chapter 32.  “All That’s My Mother.”  2001.

This chapter was my favorite so far.  Despite Rebecca’s best efforts, Deborah is still clouded with misinformation and worry about her mother’s cells.  Deborah, Zakariyya, and Rebecca go to Hopkins to visit Christoph Lengauer, a cancer researcher.  Christoph treats Deborah and her brother with respect, showing them his lab, Henrietta’s cells, and explaining how cells work to them both.  Finally, Deborah learns what DNA is, how a cell works and divides, how her mother’s HeLa cells are all cancerous (and could not therefore be used to clone another version of Henrietta), and that Deborah doesn’t have “the thing that made [Henrietta’s] cells grow forever.”  Christoph validates the wrong that Hopkins created and sets their minds more at ease.

– Mallory C

Chapter 33.  The Hospital for the Negro Insane.  2001.

This chapter revolves around the search for information surrounding Elsie Lacks.  Her story at the Hospital for the Negro Insane is not a happy one but Rebecca and Deborah find just the right people to help discover as much of Elsie’s past as possible.  At the end of the chapter, an always cautious Deborah, allows Rebecca to finally have Henrietta’s medical records providing quite a cliffhanger for the next chapter!

– Mallory C

Thanks for joining us for Chapters 31-33 of  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot!  Join in next Monday for Chapters 34-36.

If you’re just joining us, here are some logistics:

We will talk about several chapters each Monday until the book is done (probably about three chapters since the book has so many).  Then, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss.  Join in, in the comments every week!  At the end, we’ll have a book club discussion via video chat!  Also, there will probably be spoilers.  Read along with us!

How are you enjoying our young adult cancer book club?