eBook, 352 pages
In the late 1960s, Cea Sunrise Person's subversive family fled to the Canadian wilderness to grow pot, embrace free love, and live off the land. A riveting memoir of growing up off the grid amid multiple generations of dysfunction, North of Normal chronicles one woman's journey to reclaim her life on her own terms.Determined to abandon civilization for a hand-to-mouth existence in the wild, Cea Sunrise Person's charismatic grandfather Papa Dick uproots the Person clan from suburban California to the forests of Canada when she is just a baby. Together with her teenage mother, Michelle—her father long gone—Cea will spend the next decade of her life living in and out of canvas tipis with neither electricity nor running water, at the mercy of fierce storms, food shortages, and an array of grown-ups more interested in having a groovy time than in parenting a child.As a young girl who knows no other world, Cea is happy enough playing in the meadows and snowshoeing behind the grandfather she idolizes. But for Michelle, one crucial element is missing: a man. When Michelle strikes out to look for love, spinning from one boyfriend to the next, Cea is forced along for the ride—and into a harsh awakening. Consumed by a desire for a more normal life, she begins to question both her highly unusual world and the hedonistic woman at its center. But the escape she finds, a career as an internationally successful model, brings its own challenges.Shocking, heartbreaking, yet often funny, and infused with warmth toward her damaged family, North of Normal is Person's singular story of her desire to live life on her own terms—no matter what it takes. Her journey of self-discovery and acceptance, which comes full circle after she has children of her own, is profoundly moving. Eloquently navigating the minefields of regret, longing, and family, North of Normal celebrates the strength we all carry within us to shape our own destiny.
North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person is a highly recommended memoir of growing up in the 70's in an unusual family.
The full title of North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both really tells you what Cea Person's life was like growing up off the grid and in a family where free love, free thinking, and drugs are the norm and common place - even when the norm isn't necessarily what is best for everyone, especially children. The poor parenting goes back to her grandparents, FYI, although her mother, Michelle, should have been shaken and told to snap out of it and grow up.
This memoir is one of those that convinces me that not everyone should have children or have the "right" to raise a child simple because they procreated. While you will read this and applaud Cea's ability to overcome her background and survive, even thrive, many will, like me, ask what toll did her childhood also cost her. And also many will, like me, realize that this story of one person's success doesn't mean all the other neglected children out there will have the same fortitude to overcome an awful childhood.
So, while this was an engrossing memoir, it is also a nerve wracking. Michelle was so poorly equipped to be a parent and, quite frankly, clueless and stupid, that young Cea is lucky she escaped being sexually abused. Many of the ideals embraced by her mother and grandparents ultimately proved less than noble or endearing as they were lived out in reality. I really wondered if there was something more going on, perhaps some mental health issues with the grandparents that were also present in Michelle, Cea's mother (and certainly proven in her uncle Dane).
Much like Jeanette Walls The Glass Castle, North of Norma is a compelling memoir - even while it infuriates you.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.
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