Study Guide

Gladys Lacks in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot

Gladys Lacks

Although Gladys isn't emotionally close to her sister Henrietta, she does believe in family. And family sticks by your side during the worst times of your life. In Gladys' mind, one of those bad times would have been when Day and Henrietta got married. She didn't approve of the marriage because she felt that Day would be a "bad husband"; she knew he had a reputation for running with the ladies.

But despite her protests—and the fact that the family teases her as Henrietta's ugly and mean sister—Gladys stays by Henrietta's deathbed at Hopkins and relays her final message for Day (to take good care of the children), which he promptly ignores. She cares for her sister's body after her death as well.

When Skloot meets Gladys, she's ninety and confined to a wheelchair because of crippling arthritis. She still has some ideas about Henrietta, though, telling Deborah what to put in the museum she hopes to set up in the home-house. And she has her own theory about why Henrietta got sick:

Henrietta's sister Gladys never forgave her for moving to Baltimore and leaving their father behind for Gladys to care for as he aged. The way Gladys saw it, that cancer was the Lord's way of punishing Henrietta leaving home.

Henrietta's son Gary inherits that strong faith in God's direct intervention in people's lives.

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