Tina Jordan
February 23, 2012 AT 05:00 AM EST

Immortal Bird

Current Status
In Season
Doron Weber

We gave it an A-

How do you review a memoir about the death of a child? How can you say anything — anything — bad about it? Luckily, there’s hardly anything bad to say about Doron Weber’s searing chronicle of his son Damon’s death at 16, which is both a memorial and a bitter indictment of the American health-care system.

Born with a heart deformity that was partially corrected by surgery when he was a baby, Damon was diagnosed as a preteen with PLE, a coronary ailment that is usually fatal. Weber, frantic to halt his son’s decline, began a ”sacred quest” into Damon’s condition — reading medical journals, grilling researchers — and he heaps acid on the doctors and hospitals that he claims repeatedly failed the family, particularly NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, where Damon received a heart transplant and died.

If there’s a weakness in Immortal Bird, it’s that Weber, grief-stricken, has placed his son on a pedestal so high that it can be hard to glimpse the real Damon, a scrappy ginger-haired kid who emerges most clearly in his own blog posts and emails. Weber gives us the Damon who, at middle school graduation, is ”repeatedly called to the stage, winning prizes for academic excellence, for leadership, for writing, and for science. He marches to the podium in compact triumph, lit by a luminous smile and his own warm spotlight as his classmates cheer.” It’s a minor quibble. It is devastating to watch Damon die — and to watch his father try to keep living. A?

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