In Chapter Two of The Immortal Life on Henrietta Lacks, titled “Clover,” author Rebecca Skloot goes in depth about Henrietta’s childhood while being raised by her grandfather, and the evolution of her interesting relationship with her husband Day, whom she lived with from the age of four. Skloot’s research into the childhood of Lacks and her family is used as a backbone to the story to give the reader an idea of where she came from and the life she lived, which not only helps connect the dots but also allows the reader to grow closer to Lacks. Descriptive storytelling allows the reader to place themselves in the town of Clover, Virginia, to get a real view of Henrietta’s early life. This chapter appealed to me because I find life and how everyone lives differently to be interesting. History is something I can enjoy learning about and the connections to World War II and other historical namesakes such as Boston, helped pull me in to the chapter. I was intrigued by what was to me, a complex family situation Henrietta and her family members dealt with, something that they didn’t think much of. One example is Crazy Joe, one of Henrietta’s cousins, and his quest to just get “a chance” with his cousin, eventually leading to Joe stabbing himself after he hears news of Henrietta’s engagement. Most people today would not even think about marrying their cousin, but this was common practice at the time given the life circumstances surrounding the Lacks family. Another interesting piece of the chapter was the description of the trip to Boston, and how the cousins who stayed home in Clover waited for hours for their “treat” of bologna or cheese.
While “Clover” connects to the overall section one theme of “Life,” it doesn’t really connect to the rest of the chapters, especially chronologically, but instead provides background information for the rest of the story. Skloot’s placement of the chapter in between the diagnosis of Henrietta’s cancer and the rest of her story after the news presents this chapter, in a way, as a flashback. Although it may not seem as important as the other chapters in the book, knowing who Henrietta Lacks was may just be as interesting as her medical history and the moments leading up to her being cemented in history.