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Crazy For The Storm: A Memoir Of Survival

by Norman Ollestad
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Ecco
  • Publishing date: 01/06/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780061766725
  • ISBN: 0061766720

Synopsis

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2009: The story itself could take your breath away: an 11-year-old boy, the only survivor of a small-plane crash in the San Gabriel Mountains in 1979, makes his way to safety down an icy mountain face in a blizzard, using the skills and determination he learned from his father. But it's the way that Norman Ollestad tells his tale that makes Crazy for the Storm a memoir that will last. He almost has too much to tell: a way-larger-than-life father--former child actor, FBI man (who took on Hoover in a controversial book), and surfer who drove his son to test his limits in the surf and on the slopes; a youth spent in the short-lived counterculture paradise of Topanga Canyon; a stepfather who could give Tobias Wolff's a run for his money; and of course the crash. But writing 30 years later, Ollestad is wise and talented enough to focus his story on the essentials, cutting elegantly back and forth between a moment-by-moment account of the crash and his memories of the difficult but often idyllic year leading up to it. More than a story of survival, it's a time-tempered reckoning with what it means to be a father and a son. --Tom Nissley

Amazon Exclusive Essay: It Starts With a Good Story by Norman Ollestad

It was time for my eight-year old son, Noah, to read before bed. "Eh," he groaned. "Reading is so boring. It sucks." He’d been reciting this same mantra for months. I was resting beside him in his bed and I saw his whole life crumble--a slew of poor report cards and father-son arguments, ending in long term unemployment. "What about Dr. Seuss?" I reasoned. He glared at me with his brown eyes. "It's okay," he mumbled. I opened the book he was reading for his class and handed it to him. He stared at it, mute. "Noah," I said from my lowest register. He proceeded to read at a snail's pace and I pointed out that it would take him twice as long as usual to get through the required five pages. So he ran the words together, not even stopping at periods. I grabbed the book and told him we'd be reading all weekend to make up for his lack of cooperation. For months I coerced him like that, urging him past his lazy monotone, trying to get him to connect with the story. It was a long few months.

When I was Noah's age I also disliked reading. I just wanted to hear the story without having to work for it. I had wished my dad could work the same kind of magic he did with surfing: he'd push me into the waves so that I could simply enjoy the ride, eliminating the most arduous, frustrating part of surfing--paddling for the wave.

My father was always asking my mother, who was a grade-school teacher, why I wasn't a better reader. She advocated patience, and encouraged me by tirelessly pointing out things in each story that I might relate to. My father was killed when I was eleven, so he never got to witness my eventual love of reading.

In order to help Noah find that love, I searched for a seminal moment in my past that had transformed me. There was no single thing. But during my reminiscences I flashed on Dad reading aloud my grandparents' monthly letters from Mexico. They had retired to Puerto Vallarta and their letters were filled with stories. Stories about an inland village where Grandpa went twice a week to buy ice for their fridge, to keep their food cold. Stories about helping a Mexican family after a hurricane hit Puerto Vallarta. Stories of secret waterfalls and secluded isthmuses that Grandpa and Grandma had discovered around Vallarta. And that’s when it hit me--it was very simple: the essence of my love for reading really emanates from my love for stories.

"How about I tell you a story tonight," I whispered with great zeal to Noah. His eyes lit up and he smiled. "What kind of story?"

"Any kind," I said.

"A story about a magic skateboard would be cool," he suggested. As I spun the impromptu tale, he rolled onto his side and stared at me, totally focused. The following night I made a bargain with him: "First read five pages, then I'll work up a story about whatever you want." Before I got myself nestled beside him, he was halfway through the first page. Progressively, Noah's topics became more elaborate, and soon he was giving me outlines for stories. Somewhere along the line his reading voice changed--he was gobbling up the sentences, his voice alive with inflection. He'd broken through. Noah was hooked on stories, like I got hooked on riding waves. Once he'd experienced the pleasure of going on that narrative ride, reading became second nature, like paddling for a wave. It all starts with a good story.

Photographs from Crazy For the Storm

(Click to Enlarge)

My first surfboard, Topanga Beach, 1968 Mom, Dad, and Me, Topanga Beach, 1968 Dad in St. Anton, Austria, Early 1970's St. Anton with Dad

Me, Ski racing Skiing with Dad Puerto Vallarta, 1975 Three generations of Normans, 1977


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  • Greatly Enjoyed This Book
    From Amazon

    I have a hard time focusing and creating a mental picture while reading. This book made it very easy. It kept my attention throughout the entire book. Would recommend to anyone. Great story and such a sad ending. First book I have actually finished in years.

  • Great yarn, shame about the editing
    From Amazon

    I'm not an impulse buy kinda guy, but a friend of mine told me about this book awhile back (I think he'd heard the author on NPR or somewhere) and, since I love surfing, skiing, and survival stories, it was a "must have" when I picked it up last week. As a parent of kids around the age Ollestad was when the plane crash happened, I certainly wonder "if my kids write a book about me in two or three decades, how will I come across?" This is not an out and out hagiography - it's obvious that Norman Sr and Jr butted heads on more than one occasion. I must say that Ollestad senior cuts quite the dashing figure in this book. Oddly, the part I enjoyed the most were the scenes of growing up in Malibu and surfing at the mouth of Topanga Canyon. I had no idea that there was a squatters' settlement, there and it certainly sounds like there was plenty of weed and free love going down. Ollestad's descriptions of surfing are far better than the often tedious story of his descent down to the meadow. Of course, perhaps that's the idea - his self rescue was perhaps painfully slow and repetitive. I'd rate it higher - it's really a great yarn - but there's simply too much tortured language that a ruthless editor would have excised (personal disclosure - I have edited these kinds of articles in the past) from the final version.

  • Crazy stories
    From Amazon

    I have recently read the book "Crazy for the Storm," by Norman Ollestad. I really enjoyed this book, and definitely recommend that you read it. If you like books about adventures, drama, and sports, this book will definitely catch your attention and lure you in. Personally I am really interested in sports and adventure books, and this book met both of my interest. I chose this book because after reading reviews for this book and others, "Crazy for the Storm" seemed to have the best compliments, and hit home with a lot of people who were close with their fathers. The author's influences seemed to be pretty standard with his stereotyping and overgeneralization throughout the book when he states, "We marched around the corner and the entire party- maybe twenty- five kids- turned around to see us. Missy the hostess was lounging poolside with her set or rich girls on a gigantic pink towel" (Pg237). He also was very accurate with a lot of his statements and events that happened through out the book. Such as when he was talking about a skiing scene and I could relate to it. The book states, "I lifted my knees and popped into the air. I came down and the crystals spread away beneath my skis. I steered and there was no resistance, no fluctuation, just one fluid stream of powder" (Pg68) It seemed as if most of the reviews I read were very much right on key with this book. They all stated that they were touched by the heartwarming story that is being told about this kid and his dad in this book. I agree with these reviews because I did feel the story touched me in the way that my dad and I very close. So if you're someone looking for a very adventurous book that also has a very, very good story line through out, you should definitely read this book. Casey Stipe, TJHS student

  • A great book.
    From Amazon

    I enjoyed this read very much. Ollestad manages to write a family memoir, a survival tale and to capture the nostalgic, fleeting freedom of a short-lived So-Cal beach culture. The writing is simple and straight forward yet leaves you seeing and feeling Ollestad's experiences so clearly. The idea of his father was conveyed to me in such a crystalline way that I feel as though I knew the man. An absolutely excellent book.

  • Great Read - Excellent Story - A Grand Success
    From Amazon

    Shall we be quaint... This book takes you places you want to go and some that may disturb you.. Travelling with kids under extreme selfish conditions.. As a Father myself I find this book very driven and left behind in two steps.. Father and Son.. My selfish reasons and his sense of danger.. Sometimes we have to be graceful in our lives to attempt the impossible.. This book seems therapeutic for the writer and possibly other readers who might have the same extreme lifestyle.. Tho it would be a great read for any teenager to grab hold of their own reasons for life.. Nicely written and easy to read.. I recommend this book for every facet of the imagination and lost feelings found in glorious attitude.. My Father lived and now as an adult I am going to live better.. Highly Recommended..

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