The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Study Guide

Rebecca Skloot

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Part 1, Chapter 9 : Turner Station (1999) | Summary



Returning to her research narrative, Skloot goes to Turner Station to visit Sonny Lacks, but he never shows up to meet her and won't answer his phone. She tries to find Courtney Speed, whose name was mentioned in an article about creating a Henrietta Lacks museum; she eventually finds Speed at her mobile home/grocery store. Speed tells Deborah a man named Cofield soured everyone on the museum idea as well as on talking about the cells, period; she doesn't want to say anything more unless the family gives its okay.

Speed takes Skloot to her salon across the street and has Skloot look at a BBC documentary about HeLa and Henrietta, which includes the Clover Lacks family. Skloot decides to go to Clover to find Henrietta's relatives. She finally reaches Sonny by phone, and he tells her he has decided he isn't going to meet with her. She asks if he can help her get in touch with the Lacks relatives in Clover, and he tells her to go there and find them herself. Skloot says, "Then he laughed and wished me luck."


The family can't trust another journalist to have their best interests at heart because of the unethical journalistic practices they've been subjected to so far, as well as the incident with Cofield, which will be clarified later in the book. They have been exploited repeatedly. No one has tried to help them in any way.

After seeing the BBC documentary and hearing Fred Garret talk about Henrietta's cells and her unmarked grave, Skloot decides to go to Clover. She asks Sonny's permission first, which in itself is remarkable; no journalist has asked the Lacks family's permission for anything. Sonny's good-luck wish is twofold: he seems surprised a journalist wants to head down to Clover and visit people in the shacks; he also thinks it's highly unlikely Skloot will get anyone to talk with her. Deborah isn't the only Lacks family member who distrusts those who ask about Henrietta. Sonny doesn't explain why he won't meet with Skloot, but the tug-of-war between mistrust and wanting his mother to be celebrated is evident in his conversation with her.

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