Reader reviews for Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival

This is a story of survival after a plane crash but more so a story of love and strength. It is the '70s, and "Little Norman" Ollestad is 11 years old and growing up on the ocean in California. His mom and dad are divorced, and he lives with his mom and her boyfriend Nick, but the story mostly revolves around the relationship between Little Norman and his dad, "Big Norman" Ollestad. Big Norman is a lawyer by day and a surfer/skier/all-around daredevil the rest of the time. He loves his sports and loves living on the edge and is trying to teach Little Norman the beauty of that way of life. At times, his "training" of Little Norm seems harsh, but in the end, it saves his life. This is an amazing book that I couldn't put down. Definitely one of the best memoirs I've ever read!
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This is a story of survival after a plane crash but more so a story of love and strength. It is the '70s, and "Little Norman" Ollestad is 11 years old and growing up on the ocean in California. His mom and dad are divorced, and he lives with his mom and her boyfriend Nick, but the story mostly revolves around the relationship between Little Norman and his dad, "Big Norman" Ollestad. Big Norman is a lawyer by day and a surfer/skier/all-around daredevil the rest of the time. He loves his sports and loves living on the edge and is trying to teach Little Norman the beauty of that way of life. At times, his "training" of Little Norm seems harsh, but in the end, it saves his life. This is an amazing book that I couldn't put down. Definitely one of the best memoirs I've ever read!
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Little Norman Ollestad was raised on the beach in California, where his attorney dad spent every free minute surfing. Of course, Dad wants Norman learn to surf, too--and to ski! He doesn't seem to care that Norman is a timid little kid, who really doesn't want to be pushed into these activities. But push, he does.Perhaps it's a good thing, because when Norman is eleven, he is a passenger in a small plane that crashes into a California mountain. The skills he has learned from the grueling training his dad has put him through help keep him alive as he scales down the steep ice and snow covered incline during a huge storm. Amazingly he walks out, although hope had died that there were any survivors on the plane.The story is told in alternating chapters of Norman's life with his dad, and his perilous trek down the mountain. At first this felt awkward, but as we drew closer to the end, it seemed to work better, and the reader can understand why the author (little Norman himself) chose to tell his story in this manner.
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When he was 11 years old, Norman Ollestad had become a true California jock-- he was a fantastic surfer, he'd shredded his skin skateboarding, had just won a state skiing championship, and was gearing up for a hockey team tournament. In between the ski championship and hockey practice, his father chartered a plane to get them from one place to the next-- but the plane crashed in the clouds of a California mountain. The pilot and Ollestad's father were killed, his dad's girlfriend survived just a short time longer. The memoir tells the story of not only the crash but the childhood pressures and adventures he faced, all of which led up to the crash. Ollested's father was driven to make his son the best, and adults (Ollestad is now nearing his mid-40s now) and teens alike will likely be surprised at the things the elder Ollested forced upon his son. The story is well written, alternating between flashbacks of his younger childhood and surviving the crash, and will appeal to anyone with interest in outdoor survival stories. The high school at which I am currently a librarian has Into the Wild in the curriculum, and this is certainly a book I'll recommend for anyone who liked that story. It certainly has appeal to high school and middle school students, although some more conservative individuals might balk at some of the drug references.
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Very good. Couldn't stop reading, professionally written in way that it becomes an easy page turner.It's very easy to relate to the themes of the book when you're a man, son and father.
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This book as been summarized well in other reviews. Although there was much that I admired about the story, including vivid descriptions and imagery, I mostly found it unpleasantly disturbing. I understand that he loved his father, and that his father taught him remarkable life skills. But his father was also hugely negligent and self-centered. Most of the problems for which his father prepared him were brought about by his father's own recklessness. I was also uncomfortable about his portrayal of his mother and his father's girlfriend. Did I really need to read descriptions of his mom having rough post-fight make-up sex?I know this is a book about fathers and sons (and father-figures), so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that his portrayal of his mother's troubled boyfriend is far more nuanced than anything he wrote about his mom. And while I was genuinely fascinated by his adventure with his own son, which was insightful and touching, I was put off that he made no mention of his son's mother. That is weird. It would have been far less weird if he had simply written, even parenthetically, that his son's mother has requested privacy, and that he is honoring that request. Or if that's not true, then just tell us whether she died, whether she abandoned them, or whether they have joint custody but she lives elsewhere. Instead, she simply doesn't exist, and that's a significant omission that bugs me.
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Crazy For the Storm is a compelling memoir that reads just like a novel. The chapters alternate between his time on the mountain after the plane crash and his life leading up to that point. Norman Ollestad recounts his unusual upbringing and how he had to rely on his earlier experiences and lessons taught by his dad in order to survive on the mountain.

I was astounded by the activities that Norman's father made him participate in at such a young age. He was surfing and downhill skiing at a very young age, and it wasn't just that he was participating in these activities, but that his father pushed him to try things that were challenging to the point of being dangerous. In the first few pages of the book there is a photo of Norman strapped to the back of his dad while his dad was surfing - he was only one year old.

In one of my favorite sections, he recounts a road trip he took with his dad to Mexico. They have so many dangerous and exciting adventures on this trip that it made for great reading. (There were Federales with guns, a car chase and an idyllic time spent with some native Mexicans, just to give you a little preview.)

At times it was hard to put this book down. I was always wondering what was going to happen next. What crazy adventure was Norman's dad going to take them on next? Or what about his mom's boyfriend? Was he going to stay nice or start drinking again? And then of course there's the breathtaking story of how Norman got down the mountain.

I had read someone else's review of this book a while back and so I knew that there was a video on YouTube that showed footage from the news when Norman spoke to the media after he got off of the mountain. I made a point of not watching the video before I read the book because I didn't want to see any spoilers, but I can honestly say that I wish I would have watched it first because it really brings home just how young Norman was during the time period the book covers. I was shocked by how young and small he was because he had already had so many adventures and done so many crazy and dangerous things with his dad, and then survived the descent from the mountain. Because of his achievements and bravery on the mountain I had been picturing someone older in my head (even though his age was given in the book).

There were a lot of descriptions of surfing and skiing in the book that used the technical terminology of each sport. I did not understand many of them, but it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the book.

If you like reading memoirs about survival situations then I'm sure you will love Crazy For the Storm.
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This book was a super quick read, well written and it is easy to feel you are there watching it all unfold. While Norman is very descriptive as someone who has never surfed nor skied sometimes it is a little over kill. The book tells two stories at once. One chapter tells about the plane crash that took Norman's father and his girlfriends life including the story of Norman's struggle to save his own life. The next chapter then tells the story of Norman's past with his father and all their adventures. It continues in this format throughout the book. As I said, a very quick and simple read, but well written and entertaining as well.
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2 Words that describe the book: Survival memoir3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:1. Setting: late 1970s California and Mexico2. Norman Ollestad Jr.—The author had a unique upbringing in the uninhibited and freedom-loving surf culture of the 1970s. (He lived on Topanga Beach.) At age 1, his father strapped him to his back and took him surfing (see photo at right). This was the start of a childhood filled with extreme sports. Norman was continually pushed by his father to surf, play hockey and ski at levels that were both frightening and somewhat dangerous. Yet this background gave Norman a unique mindframe and skills that ended up helping him to survive a plane crash that killed his father, his father's girlfriend and the plane's pilot. Norman was only 11 at the time of the crash.3. Norman Ollestad Sr.—A fearless man with a taste for adventure, Norman Ollestad was many things: a former FBI agent who wrote a book exposing the weaknesses of the agency, a successful lawyer, and a devoted father who wanted to make sure his son (who he affectionately called "Boy Wonder") experienced the exhilaration and beauty of living life fully by pursuing extreme sports like powder skiing and surfing.4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:1 . I liked the trip to Mexico that father and son take shortly before the plane crash. In many ways, it acts as a "coming of age" journey for young Norman. This extended sequence is (in some ways) more the heart of the book than the actual plane crash.2. I disliked how Ollestad structured the book. The chapters alternate between his childhood and his struggle for survival on the mountain after the plane crash. This technique for telling the story didn't work for me. I felt like I kept losing the "momentum" of the survival aspect of the story. The book might have worked better if it had been told in chronological order.3. I disliked that I never got a real grip on the survival story. I'm not sure if it was Ollestad's writing or my unfamiliarity with some of the terms he used, but I never felt that sense of "I'm right there" you get with some survival stories (such as Jon Krakauer's excellent Into Thin Air.)4. I liked the ending where Ollestad writes about his grown-up assessment of his father and his own struggle to find the right amount to push his own son. In many ways, Norman might not have survived if his father hadn't raised him the way he did. But in other ways, it seems almost negligent or cruel the pressure his father put on him and the situations he was forced to experience. 5 Stars or less for your rating?I'm giving the book 3 stars. I really wanted to like it more than I did. I'm a big fan of real-life survival stories, but this one just didn't do it for me. I think much of it was due to the writing. Although he has a gripping story to tell, I think Ollestad might have benefited from having a co-writer that could have helped him tell his story better. Surprisingly enough, the most interesting part of the book for me was the father-son relationship and the unique way Ollestad was raised.
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A well-paced father/son memoir, it contains engaging characters that defy the cliched categories of hero/villain that I find in childhood memoirs -- I'm no fan of annoyingly precocious kids waxing philosophical, but Ollestad is a very restrained writer with only a moment or two where I felt like the characters had some memoir-affectation that disrupted the "reality" of the story. Not that you have to believe every detail in any memoir, this one or others -- but usually I find memoirs to have a lot of those shifts from dead-on accurate storytelling that rings true (e.g. age-appropriate and believable like "Freaks and Geeks") to fanciful, ornate, and fairy-tale-false (e.g. 90210/Gossip Girl), and I prefer the former. Ollestad's book does a remarkable job of allowing us to believe, anyway, that his memoir is not discolored (too much) by the intervening years or the desire to manipulate what is supposed to be non-fiction.
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