I'm not promising it to be a regular thing for 2015, but after getting Cea Sunrise Person's memoir North of Normal (HarperCollins) for Christmas, I felt motivated to share a book review here on the blog. Hey, it might be a fun way to inspire myself to start reading more in the new year!
Last year I read just two books, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman. Both are wild and true memoirs of adventure seeking journalists, appealing to my own constant interest in the path less traveled. But Person's book North of Normal is a different type of adventure, one that was not of her choosing. Born into a counter-culture family in the late 60's, Person lives her formative years under the extreme ideals of the families patriarch, Papa Dick. Along with her 16 year old mother, teenaged aunts and grandparents, Person spends toddlerhood living in a tipi in the Canadian wilderness, her childhood living in tents and crashing in abandoned homes, with the occasional return to the wild. Through considerable adversity she eventually finds herself making a radical shift into the high speed world of international modelling, alone at 13 years old. It's a story so wild that the reader can hardly believe it to be true, but through Person's passionate re-telling there is never a doubt that it is exactly that.
I particularly enjoyed North of Normal's raw look into the often ROMANTICIZED hippie lifestyle of the 1960's and 70's.
Person gracefully emotes both an appreciation for her wilderness upbringing along with a resentfulness at the neglect and abuse she suffers at the hands of her family members and those who they choose to associate with. As a parent, I empathize with both Papa Dick and Person's young mother Michelle. Both have their individual world views, aspirations and emotional needs (some of which may be the result of poor mental health) which are valid individually. The problem lies in finding a balanced environment which both nurtures their spirits and provides a safe and healthy environment to raise a child. The astounding amount of misadventure young Person is subject to speaks to how both adults failed to protect her.
Although North of Normal was a bit of a tear jerker at times, it never failed to be UPLIFTING.
Some questions do go unanswered, as is true in life, but by the conclusion of the book we are privileged to a further backstory on several members of the Person family. Through to the end, you will find the true life characters illustrated in the novel to be vivid and fully fleshed out. I had a hard time putting the book down and found myself wishing I knew even more about the past lives of the Persons. North of Normal is truly an enthralling read by a passionate, natural writer. Check it out!