A Fatal Inheritance: How a Family Misfortune Revealed a Deadly Medical Mystery (Hardcover)

A Fatal Inheritance: How a Family Misfortune Revealed a Deadly Medical Mystery By Lawrence Ingrassia Cover Image
Ships from Warehouse


Weaving his own moving family story with a sweeping history of cancer research, Lawrence Ingrassia delivers an intimate, gripping tale that sits at the intersection of memoir and medical thriller

Ingrassia lost his mother, two sisters, brother, and nephew to cancer—different cancers developing at different points throughout their lives. And while highly unusual, his family is not the only one to wonder whether their heartbreak is the result of unbelievable bad luck, or if there might be another explanation.

Through meticulous research and riveting storytelling, Ingrassia takes us from the 1960s—when Dr. Frederick Pei Li and Dr. Joseph Fraumeni Jr. first met, not yet knowing that they would help make a groundbreaking discovery that would affect cancer patients for decades to come—to present day, as Ingrassia and countless others continue to unpack and build upon Li and Fraumeni’s initial discoveries, and to understand what this means for their families.

In the face of seemingly unbearable loss, Ingrassia holds onto hope. He urges us to “fight like Charlie,” his nephew who battled cancer his entire life starting with a rare tumor in his cheek at the age of two—and to look toward the future, as gene sequencing, screening protocols, CRISPR gene editing, and other developing technologies may continue to extend lifespans and perhaps, one day, even offer cures.

About the Author

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. He lives in the Seattle area.

Praise For…

A Fatal Inheritance by Lawrence Ingrassia is a compelling personal chronicle of tragedy and triumph. It captures both the ineffable pain of families riddled with cancers and the remarkable research over the past half century by scientists determined to help them.”
Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

"When two young doctors came across a family riddled with cancer for generations, they wondered why and began a decades long search for the answer. In A Fatal Inheritance, a riveting narrative of their quest, Lawrence Ingrassia intertwines a deeply personal and tearful story of unbearable family loss with an inspiring story of scientific discovery that revolutionized the understanding and treatment of cancer."
—Walter Isaacson, author of Elon Musk, The Code Breaker and Steve Jobs

"When Lawrence Ingrassia lost his mother, sisters, brother and nephew to cancer, was it appallingly bad luck, or was there a common cause? This is the story of a family tragedy, a medical mystery, and the painstaking work of insightful scientists. By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, A Fatal Inheritance is a story of mortal loss and human resilience."
—Geraldine Brooks, author of Horse and March

"Spurred on by his family’s extraordinary experiences with cancer, Lawrence Ingrassia reports compassionately and comprehensively on the breakthroughs of genetic research into the illness. Through his eye-opening journalism, we learn how scientific progress really happens—in fits and starts and endless reversals, and with an endless capacity for hope."
—Robert Kolker, author of Hidden Valley Road

"Fortune surely frowned on the Ingrassias—a family beset by a genetic anomaly that beamed scientific light into the twisty nature of cancer—and smiled on readers, by making its central member one of America's truly great journalists. The result is an extraordinary, empathic, medical detective story and emotional roller-coast. This is a beautiful book that will break hearts and then heal them. A treasure."
Ron Suskind, author of Life, Animated

"Lawrence Ingrassia's quest to understand what felt like a curse on his family turns out to be one of the most eye-opening stories. The portrait he draws of his family's medical mystery and the two doctors who pioneered its treatment is a masterful work of reporting and writing, filled with unflinching honesty, empathy, and wisdom. A Fatal Inheritance is a brilliant, unforgettable book that I recommend highly."
—Bryan Burrough, author of Barbarians at the Gate

"An emotionally charged narrative about... scientific discovery, hope, loss, grief, and, especially, familial love."

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250837226
ISBN-10: 1250837227
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 320
Language: English