North of Normal

North of Normal

A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Counterculture Family, and How I Survived Both

Book - 2014
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Sex, drugs and . . . bug stew? An utterly compelling tale of survival--of nature, family and genetics

In the late 1960s, riding the crest of the counterculture movement, Cea's family left a comfortable existence in California to live off the land in northern Alberta. But unlike most commune dwellers of the time, the Persons weren't trying to build a new society--they wanted to escape civilization altogether. Led by Cea's grandfather Dick, they lived in a canvas Teepee, grew pot, and hunted and gathered to survive.

Living out her grandparents' dream with her teenage mother, Michelle, young Cea knew little of the world beyond her forest. She spent her summers playing nude in the meadow and her winters snowshoeing behind the grandfather she idolized. Despite fierce storms, food shortages and the occasional drug-and-sex-infused party for visitors, it was a happy existence. For Michelle, however, there was one crucial element missing: a man. When Cea was five, Michelle took her on the road with a new boyfriend. As the trio set upon a series of ill-fated adventures, Cea began to question both her highly unusual world and the hedonistic woman at the centre of it--questions that eventually evolved into an all-consuming search for a more normal life. Finally, in her early teens, Cea realized she would have to make a choice as drastic as the one her grandparents once had made in order to get the life she craved.

From nature child to international model by the age of thirteen, Cea's astonishing saga is one of long-held family secrets and extreme family dysfunction, all in an incredibly unusual setting. It is also the story of one girl's deep-seated desire for normality--a desire that enabled her to risk everything, overcome adversity and achieve her dreams.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollinsPublishersLtd, c2014.
ISBN: 9781443424370
Characteristics: 301 pages, [16] pages of plates :,illustrations (chiefly color), portraits (chiefly color) ;,24 cm.


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Mar 12, 2019

I read this book a few weeks ago and I'm still unsure about how to review it. I think my major issues were the writing, and questioning the accuracy of events: the writing was not very impressive, and many of the events took place during Person's childhood and young adult years. I understand that her family helped to fill in many of the gaps, but it made me wonder how much was real or simply added in for effect. I do agree that Person was brought up in a very unconventional and harmful family, but I found myself (wrongly, probably) comparing North of Normal to Educated, a recent biography I loved. Comparatively, Person's experiences were odd, but fairly average -- sadly many child abuse stories go untold so I felt somewhat conflicted about her story selected as the one to be told. Beyond her wilderness hippie childhood, Person went on to lead a fairly average life.
I wasn't blown away by North of Normal and I don't think I would read anything else by her. It was an okay read that many people would be shocked and/or disgusted about, and rightly so, but it didn't stand out for me. And that's the tea.

It’s not everybody’s childhood to live off the land in the Canadian wilderness. It’s not everyone’s childhood to grow up in a chaotic, drug-ridden hippie family with a single mother who lived on men, either. However, it’s every person’s journey to seek his/her normal life, and for lots of people, come to terms with a dysfunctional family of origin and a traumatic past. When Cea Sunrise Person finally found her “normal” in her 40s — with family, children, and an absent father who’s eventually involved, my tears gushed out like a torrent. (submitted by CH)

Aug 14, 2018

I read this incredible memoir it’s like Wild meets The Glass Castle in the Canadian Rockies!
Also lucky to heard her speak in person-thanks to SCL!

Jul 07, 2018

I saw this book on the shelf as a "Staff Pick" and it piqued my interest. So glad I read this book as the story was quite amazing and a true testament to the resilience and coping skills of children.

Apr 10, 2018

I really enjoyed this autobiography of the author's amazing upbringing. I did feel the author rushed it along as she got older, skipping huge chunks of time.

Feb 24, 2018

This book is fantastic. I love reading memoirs and this one did not disappoint. Highly recommend. Compelling story and well written.

Sep 25, 2017

Our Art Lovers Book Club ended up giving this a 5 out of 10. It seems to be a book you either love or hate, with some rating the book as high as an 8 and some giving it just a 1 or a 2. Of course, books that have such diverse opinions are sometimes the best to discuss, which was definitely the case with this title.

Jul 31, 2017

Impossible to put down. This true story captured my attention from the first paragraph and the Canadian setting held my interest. Her journey is difficult and amazing. A fantastic read!

May 16, 2017

Wow, what a story and I am so surprised that she survived such a childhood. A very good read. From such a humble upbringing she sure had an adventurous life. I am glad that her life took such a turn, modelling in Europe and now she is married to a wonderful man with a family of her own. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a different good book to read.

Feb 14, 2017

They lived a real hippie life in the bush in Alberta and BC, many places I recognized which made it interesting.
Cea did a good job describing her dysfunctional family and wild wilderness childhood.
Book made me smile at times.
A good read.

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Feb 14, 2017

runningbeat thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Nov 02, 2014

natalieruhl thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


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