Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review - Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir by Doron Weber

Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir

Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir by Doron Weber

With fiction, it is easier to rate a book, or talk about what you like/dislike about the plot and the characters. But it is trickier to review memoir, because if you don't like how the "story" goes, you are criticizing the characters or actions of real people instead.

I read a few reviews of this book - "a searing account of a father’s struggle to save his remarkable son from a rare heart condition that threatens his life" - and some common themes arose - that the author was name dropping a lot (about the different famous doctors and scientists he knows, and his son got to appear in a TV series etc), and that Damon, the author's son, was just too perfect.

To me though, the name dropping did not bother me - I took it as a fact that the author consulted with credible sources - so it's like citing references without citing them formally with footnote and a bibliography. The author was lucky enough to have a rich network of people who were willing to share their knowledge with him (which implied that the author was quite well liked or the experts could have just ignored his requests). If my son had a fatal disease, and if I had people I could reach out to, you betcha I would do everything I could to save my child's life. It is not something I would've understood until I had my own child (and coincidentally, Damon and my son shared a birthday.) I am also the type of person who would do a lot of research on a topic I focus on - the pro and the con, the evidence and stats and examples... And really, the author needed to make informed decisions for his son's care, and it just showed his dedication. He really was Damon's advocate in his care. That's way better than parents who neglect their children. (Though personally I might not have gone as far as demanding the doctor's personal phone number... but who knows what I would do if I was in his shoes. When I had my C-section that required a 3 nights stay, the pediatrician doing the rounds did give us his cell phone number even though he is not our pediatrician.... so I don't know what the usual protocol is.)

I also wouldn't have understood why parents say their children are perfect until now... my son is just perfect - he is perfect for US, but it doesn't mean he is a perfect person, or that he doesn't have faults. It is just that we couldn't have asked for a better son. The author did mention Damon's flaws (e.g. not doing well in math, took a while to make new friends at the Tech, throwing some teenager tantrums etc) but really, it is refreshing to see such a strong bond between father and son. The scene where Damon, who was 16 years old at the time, sat on his dad's lap in front of his friends, spoke volume about their relationship.

As far as the writing goes - I am definitely not an expert - it just took me a while to finish the book but I never thought to stop or abandon the book. And I was so glad I read the last few chapters at home, instead of on the bus, because I would have been a mess - in fact, I stayed up late to finish the book because I couldn't put it down, despite that I had to get up at 5:45am the next day to go to work early.

Since I work in process improvement in healthcare, the topic about the care Damon received particularly interested me. Of course we have only heard from one side of the story - but if what the author said was true (and perception is the truth in a patient's or their caregiver's eyes), then there are definitely a lot of things we as a medical institution can learn from. It reminded me of Josie's Story: A Mother's Inspiring Crusade to Make Medical Care Safe by Sorrel King which I read back in 2009 - though this book is a dedication to the author's son, and the topic of patient safety is a by-product, whereas Sorrel King's book really is about what she did to make medical care safer after her daughter's unfortunate death. I read from a Q&A that this book was used as a study guide and basis for seminars and discussions at San Diego Children's Hospital, so I hope more can be done based on this tragic story.

3.5 Stars.

PS - the book mentioned Damon played a small part in the HBO show Deadwood. I have not heard of the show before, but was curious to find out more (told you, I like doing research! :) ) and happened to find a clip of him in the show - he was the red hair boy who left on the wagon (you probably would have recognized him based on his photo on the book):

Note - A copy was given as part of the TLC Tour.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour stops!

Tuesday, April 30th:  Lavish Bookshelf
Monday, May 6th:  Blooming with Books
Wednesday, May 8th:  Fifty Books Project
Thursday, May 9th:  Read Lately - review
Thursday, May 9th:  Read Lately - author Q&A
Thursday, May 9th:  Speaking of Books
Monday, May 13th:  River City Reading
Tuesday, May 14th:  Between the Covers
Thursday, May 16th:  She Treads Softly
Monday, May 20th:  Mental Foodie
Thursday, May 23rd:  Perks of being a JAP
Tuesday, June 4th:  Luxury Reading - author guest post/giveaway

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.


  1. I can totally identify with your comments about your child being perfect for your family - I feel the same way about my own son. I can't imagine being in this father's situation...

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

    1. I can't imagine being in the author's situation either :(