Sunday, July 26, 2009

Crazy For The Storm

I just finished one of the most compelling books I've ever encountered.

It is Crazy For the Storm - A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad.

In this book, Ollestad alternates chapters between the story of the plane crash that he was the lone survivor of at age 11 with stories of his growing up that prepared him for the grueling climb down that ice mountain, the experiences that helped him stay alive.

He describes his dad as a larger than life, highly charismatic figure who pushed him hard to excel at surfing, skiing, hockey - all sorts of physical stuff. Norm Ollestad Sr. pushed his son way further than I as a mother ever could have tolerated. But who is to say how much is too much?

With clear prose that never sugar coats a moment of any of the incidents he describes, "Little Norm" - as he was dubbed growing up, paints amazing word pictures of his early life on Topanga Beach, near Malibu CA in the 70's. He offers glimpses into the life of the surfer culture at a time in history before eminant domain and government regulations changed the California landscape.

Then, in February 1979, in a small Cessna his dad had chartered to take them to go to the awards ceremony for a Ski Race championship that little Norman had just won, they hit the side of a mountain. The pilot, and Normans father, were killed on impact. Little Norman and his dad's girlfriend were both injured, but alive. His depiction of getting down off that mountain is burned into my brain.

The story of the trip young Norman took with his dad to Mexico the previous summer is also told with such riveting images I almost feel as if I was right along with them, slogging through the mud when they got stuck, feeling the salt on my skin at the beach.

This is an amazing book.

It raised so many questions for me.

How far should a parent push a child to do things he or she does NOT want to do if the parent believes it will ultimately be good for the kid?

How far does one parent allow another parent to discipline if (as is often the case) the two have different views on parenting styles?

Why do women stay with men who hit them?

In what ways have things my parents done or not done shaped the way I chose to parent my own kids? How much of that would I change now if I could?

To what extent am I willing to endure physical pain or fear in order to experience bliss or accomplishment on the other side?

What things have I missed out on because I was NOT willing to endure pain or fear?

This is hands down one of the best books I've sampled for a long, long time.

Not only is it a riveting story - his skill with words is amazing. I am convinced that Norman Ollstad would be a good writer telling any tale. But unfolding THIS story, his story, was nothing short of amazing as far as I'm concerned.

I hope he keeps writing.

But whether he does or not, he's given me much to think about.


  1. OOOOO that sounds like I book I would like! I will have to check it out.

  2. Yay! I am constantly looking for a good book. I have read many, many this summer, but some of them were huge disappointments and wastes of my time. I'll have to track this one down. Thanks for the tip!

  3. This was a great write-up. Big thanks to, Belladonna. Norman really appreciates the kind words.

    Your readers should know that Norm maintains a pretty awesome official website. It's loaded with old images (many of which, are not in the book) as well as video, tour dates, news and more. Yes, I'm being a promotion-hungry Webmaster here, but I love this book and I think you'd all dig learning more about it. So check out: