Study Guide

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Chapter 38

By Rebecca Skloot

Chapter 38

The Long Road to Clover (2009)

  • Skloot returns to Clover and realizes that the town is gone, gone, gone. Nothing's left except the post office.
  • She tells us that a lot of things have changed for the Lacks family. Cousin Gary, who'd prayed with Deborah after Crownsville, has died of a heart attack.
  • Then, cousins Fred, Cootie, and Day die. Deborah is incredibly distraught by all these losses.
  • Deborah's brother Sonny has to have a quintuple bypass and winds up heavily in debt from the surgery. Skloot points out the irony of Henrietta's son having no health insurance.
  • Zakariyya continues to get into trouble, and Deborah herself leaves her husband James.
  • She's almost broke by this time even though she's been working full-time.
  • Skloot finishes the book and wants to set up a time to come to Baltimore to read it with Deborah, but she can't get Deborah to call her back.
  • Skloot then learns from Sonny that Deborah died of a heart attack just after Mother's Day.
  • We learn that Deborah was in a good place when she passed: she knew that Henrietta's great-grandchildren were doing well in school, and that her beloved Davon would go to college.
  • Skloot remembers spending time with Deborah and Davon in Deborah's apartment, watching her favorite movies with her.
  • She recalls watching the BBC documentary with Deborah, and seeing the moment when Deborah talked about touching Henrietta's lock of hair, which she kept in her bible.
  • She talked about how it lifted her loneliness and how she looked forward to being with Henrietta in heaven one day.
  • Deborah also said she took comfort in knowing that Henrietta had been watching over her.
  • Skloot remembers that Deborah believed that heaven looked like Clover, Virginia—that's what Henrietta would want it to be like, since she'd loved her home so much.
  • Deborah ended the conversation by saying that she wouldn't mind "coming back" as HeLa-type cells, so that she and her mother could do good in the world together.

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