Town Hall Seattle: Lawrence Ingrassia with Robert Merry — 'A Fatal Inheritance: How a Family Misfortune Revealed a Deadly Medical Mystery'

An event in partnership with Town Hall Seattle


Town Hall Seattle and Third Place Books present Lawrence Ingrassia, who will be joined in conversation by Robert Merry, for a discussion of his book, A Fatal Inheritance: How a Family Misfortune Revealed a Deadly Medical Mystery.

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About the event. . . 

One instance of grief can be difficult enough to cope with, but for Lawrence Ingrassia, losing multiple family members was not only devastating but perplexing. Typical discussions surrounding inheritance may include heirlooms or estates — not rare tumors in the cheeks of toddlers, as was the case for Ingrassia’s two-year-old nephew. After he lost his mother, two sisters, brother, and nephew to different types of cancer, Ingrassia was unsure whether his family’s generational heartbreak was merely misfortune or if there was some other cause.

In his book A Fatal Inheritance: How a Family Misfortune Revealed a Deadly Medical Mystery, Ingrassia weaves his own family history with a history of cancer research. Part memoir, part medical thriller, Ingrassia’s work begins in the 1960s with Dr. Frederick Pei Li and Dr. Joseph Fraumeni Jr., groundbreaking researchers and physicians who would later uncover links between genetics and cancer.

A Fatal Inheritance journeys from the early days of discovery to present-day developments decades later, as Ingrassia and others continue to build upon Li and Fraumeni’s initial investigations and discover what this means for themselves and their families. Ingrassia also looks toward the future, as gene sequencing, screening protocols, CRISPR gene editing, and other developing technologies aid in extending lifespans and possibly getting us closer to a cure.


Lawrence Ingrassia is a former business and economics editor and deputy managing editor at the New York Times, having previously spent twenty-five years at the Wall Street Journal, as Boston bureau chief, London bureau chief, money and investing editor, and assistant managing editor. He also served as managing editor of the Los Angeles Times. The coverage he directed won five Pulitzer Prizes as well as Gerald Loeb Awards and George Polk Awards. His first book, Billion Dollar Brand Club, chronicles the rise of popular direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands and was shortlisted for several best business book awards for 2020. His latest book, A Fatal Inheritance, narrates the tale of a team of dedicated researchers who solved the medical mystery behind seemingly unrelated cancers devastating his and other families.

Robert W. Merry spent 45 years in Washington, D.C., as Wall Street Journal reporter and executive at Congressional Quarterly, including 12 years as CQ’s president and editor-in-chief. After CQ was sold to the Economist, he also served as editor of the polemical magazines The National Interest and The American Conservative. He is the author of six books on American history and foreign policy, including the forthcoming Decade of Disunion: How Massachusetts and South Carolina Led the Way to Civil War, 1849-1861 (Simon & Schuster).


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