Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival

Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival

by Norman Ollestad

Paperback(Large Print)

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Dad Said

Olestad, we can do i t all. . . .

Why do you make me do this?

Because it's beautiful when it all comes together.

I don't think it's ever beautiful.

One day.


We'll see, my father said. Vamanos.

From the age of three, Norman Ollestad was thrust into the world of surfing and competitive downhill skiing by the intense, charismatic father he both idolized and resented. While his friends were riding bikes, playing ball, and going to birthday parties, young Norman was whisked away in pursuit of wild and demanding adventures. Yet it were these exhilarating tests of skill that prepared "Boy Wonder," as his father called him, to become a fearless champion—and ultimately saved his life.

Flying to a ski championship ceremony in February 1979, the chartered Cessna carrying Norman, his father, his father's girlfriend, and the pilot crashed into the San Gabriel Mountains and was suspended at 8,200 feet, engulfed in a blizzard. "Dad and I were a team, and he was Superman," Ollestad writes. But now Norman's father was dead, and the devastated eleven-year-old had to descend the treacherous, icy mountain alone.

Set amid the spontaneous, uninhibited surf culture of Malibu and Mexico in the late 1970s, this riveting memoir, written in crisp Hemingwayesque prose, recalls Ollestad's childhood and the magnetic man whose determination and love infuriated and inspired him—and also taught him to overcome the indomitable. As it illuminates the complicated bond between an extraordinary father and his son, Ollestad's powerful and unforgettable true story offersremarkable insight for us all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061782084
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/02/2009
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Norman Ollestad studied creative writing at UCLA and attended UCLA Film School. He grew up on Topanga Beach in Malibu and now lives in Venice, California. He is the father of a nine-year-old son.

What People are Saying About This

Russell Banks

“A book that may well be read for generations. It’s a book that fathers should give to their sons, but sons should give it to their fathers, too . . . mothers, wives, sisters and daughters: read it and weep for all the boys and men you have ever loved.”

Jim Harrison

Crazy for the Storm is an absolutely compelling book which I read in one long sitting. The fact that it’s true made me shudder, but then Norman Ollestad is a fine writer and every detail is convincing.”

Carolyn See

“As much a thriller as a memoir . . . gorgeously written, perfectly controlled.”

Lucinda Franks

"Extraordinary-an adventure story with a rich psychological foundation from an enormously talented author. Crazy for the Storm is a powerful book. It deserves to be a bestseller."--(Pulitzer Prize-winner Lucinda Franks, author of My Father's Secret War)

Susan Cheever

“A heart-stopping adventure that ends in tragedy and in triumph, a love story that fearlessly explores the bond between a father and son and what it means to lead a life without limits.”

Customer Reviews

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Crazy for the Storm 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 79 reviews.
PrudeDude More than 1 year ago
The story is interesting. The writing is fine. Unfortunately, I still wouldn't recommend this book to any of my friends or family. Call me a prude or whatever, but I would not have bought the book had I known about the sex and frequent use of the F word. I understand that the author was painting a picture of the lifestyle he grew up with, but I believe he could have accomplished that without the explicit crudeness. I read all 28 reviews before downloading the e-book to my nook. I now realize some reviews probably contained veiled references to the adult-themed content, but I'm new to this and didn't see through them (i.e., the person who said they stopped reading because they didn't care for "his writing style"). I wish books had content advisories like those for movies and music. This would be especially helpful for buying e-books, since you can't flip through the pages like you would when buying a hard copy at the bookstore. I suppose a lot of people don't consider sex and language a negative issue -- but for those who do, consider yourself advised.
Eric_J_Guignard More than 1 year ago
Compelling story and well written. Two plots of the author's life - one is the relationship with his father and growing up in Malibu and the other is him as the sole survivor in a small plane crash. Each chapter goes back and forth and soon you understand how they are related, as the strength and lessons his father taught him helped Ollestad to survive. It is a quick read and positive affirmation. Enjoyed it.
BostonJS More than 1 year ago
Incredible book. Fast read. I grew up in the 60-70's and really appreciate the work ethic, freedom, and toughness that people had back then. Today with all of the safety regulations, warning labels, and scary news stories, people are encouraged to be afraid of everything and our kids have become soft. They would never have survived through Norm Ollestad's experiences. I would love for my sheltered, Nintendo-playing ten year old son to read this book, but some references are for adults only so he will have to wait until his teenage years to read this. This would be an excellent Father's Day book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book!!! It was so sad but also very funny at times. I enjoyed the chapters when they were in Mexico. I also thought it was neat to learn of how people acted in the 70's
Anonymous 10 months ago
We are all faced with challenges as we move through life. How well were we prepared to face them.? Sometimes we just have to move forward on the faith we’ve been provided with.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has been getting scads of publicity and lots of raves recently. I read it before all the reviews came out and I'm still baffled by the over the top plaudits it has received because I thought it was a decent read but not an overwhelming wow. Is it thrilling? Yes. Will it keep you reading? Probably. But there was something missing in it for me. The story of little Norman Ollestad's amazing survival after a plane crash that ultimately killed everyone else on board, including Norman's father, and left him stranded on a mountain during a terribly snow storm, this is also the story of the early years of Norman's life as his father pushed him to become a surfer and a skier who pushed the envelope. The memoir alternates chapters between the life he shared with his mother, her boyfriend, and his father and the hours, moments leading up to and after the crash as he fights for survival. As Norman has drawn his childhood (the crash happened when he was only 11), I felt only anger and annoyance towards his parents. His mother seemed to put her abusive boyfriend ahead of her son and his father was more interested in creating a "boy wonder" who excelled at his father's chosen sports than about the emotional well-being of a young child. Ollestad's love for these flawed parents is there in the book but what really stood out for me was that he spent a lot of time unhappy or terrified or neglected when with either of his parents. Of course, ultimately, his father's child-rearing method (push said child hard and relentlessly until the child attempts whatever simply to avoid being called a coward) helped Norman muster up the strength to make it down the mountain to safety, knowing his father and the pilot were dead and after seeing his father's girlfriend slide to her death too. So perhaps I am being too harsh in judging the scenes Ollestad has chosen to write about here. But I do know that I would have been pretty darn resentful of my parents for their treatment of me had the book been mine, rather than his.As far as the story itself goes, it is pretty thrilling, edge of your pants. The alternating chapters are written differently, evoking either the feeling of a descriptive and haphazard childhood or the short, stacato adreneline bursts of the crash and its aftermath. And sending the reader from one extreme of writing to another just with the turn of the page helped to amp up the thrill factor. It is a story that no one should have had to live but Ollestad's writing has captured some of the dislocation and terror that he must have felt coming down that mountain. And I appreciated the final chapter, detailing his return to the crash site and his own handling of his young son with fair reflections on his father's parenting of him. I felt there was something destructive, intense and controlling in the daredevil father he's captured in these pages, something that made his death at a relatively young age inevitable. But not liking many (all?) of the people who made up his early life, I had a hard time caring too much about their terrible fates, a failing that is even more callous given that these are not characters but real people. I don't know whether the fault for this lack of connection is in the writing or in me personally. Did I read on avidly, despite knowing the outcome of the crash before even opening the first page (it's given away on the cover)? Yes. Did I feel gutted and drained when I finished reading it? No, I just felt detached and relieved to be finished. Adventure junkies will likely thrive on the adreneline rush this book provides while the more sedentary (or cowardly like me) might find themselves dismayed by the interpersonal relationships as presented here and wish for a bit more than the book delivered.
juliana_t on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An incredible story of survival. I enjoyed the converging story lines that alternated chapters. The ending is particularly poignant as the author struggles to push his own son into that place where he will struggle but, if he can get through it, will fill empowered and confident. By relating his own story, Ollestad shows the reader how pushing beyond "effortless fun" pays off.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
ctmsjamo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad is a autobiography. Norman lives with his mother and her abusive husband Nick. they live in the inland of California. Normans dad lives off the coast of California with his girlfriend Sandra. Normans dad is all about skiing. one trip with Norman and Sandra, the plane crashes into a mountian. "in less than 9 hours, 2 are dead." This book was really bad. the beginning was boring and i didnt want to read it at all. It had no action what so ever and was not very well written. its set up was weird. it would bounce back and forth to before and during the crash. I rate this a 1/2 a star.
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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!
CarmenOhio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Crazy for the Storm" is a remarkable story about a boy, his father, their relationship, and a truly miraculous journey of survival made by the boy. The author intermingles chapters that demonstrate what kind of physical and mental toughness young Norman achieves through experiences with his father with chapters that recount the crash and Norman's descent to safety. Slalom skiing in rugged conditions, surfing enormous and dangerous waves, taking a crazy journey through Mexico with a washing machine and being chased by Federales... Norman's father prepares him for life and unwittingly prepares him to save his own life after the boy lives through a plane crash thousands of feet up a mountain. This is a wonderful book and a thrilling story.
karieh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is a line near the beginning of ¿Crazy for the Storm¿ that I think is very telling about the whole book.¿He had taught me to ride big waves, had pulled me from tree wells and fished me out of suffocating powder. Now it was my turn to save him.¿The author, Norman Ollestad, says this about his father (also Norman Ollestad), after the plane crash that took his father¿s life and stranded him on a mountain, alone. The reason I find it telling, is that as I read through the book, I found far more places where the son is saving the father, or at least living the life the father had wanted for himself. Norman¿s father exposed him to so many dangerous situations (many that these days he¿d probably get arrested for, per the author) but by doing so, also gave him the tools and the inner strength to survive.¿We stared at each other. I saw him so clearly. The cranium shelf rising off his forehead bumpy and uneven, the cluster of diamonds in the blue of his eyes fragile cracked windows, and I saw someone younger and full of grand ambitions and I thought about how he had wanted to be a professional basketball player. He looked at me as if into a mirror, studying me, like I was holding something that he admired, even desired.¿The author does a good job balancing the voice of his younger self, often angry at his father for making him live a different life, making him ski and surf and take risks that he didn¿t want to¿with the admiration he now feels for his father. Though Ollestad is making different choices now with his own son, Noah, the lessons taught to him as a child have taken deep root.His father¿s voice is always in the background¿not only in the decisions he makes regarding his own son, but all throughout the book.¿All I care about is that you keep going, Boy Wonder. Don¿t get stuck on how you finished last time or the turn you just made. Go after the next one with all you¿ve got.¿Moments like that were the strongest part of this book. Though I thought I¿d be more drawn to the crash itself and the miracle that an 11-year old boy was the only survivor and managed to get down a mountain in the winter by himself¿it was the father/son relationships that were more powerful. The crash details (and some of the descriptions of surfing and skiing) that got too technical for me since I am unfamiliar with those worlds.The writing was at times very choppy¿short, staccato sentences that broke up the flow of other, very lyrical passages.Agree or disagree with a father making his son take incredible risks, living a different life than the son wanted to at the time, in the end the author lets go of the right or wrong of his life. He maintains his love for his father, appreciates the gifts that came from the way he was raised, and has a wealth of experience, good and bad, with which to guide his own son. In the end, he has the memory of his father and the reality of his son.¿I guessed that at some point during his run, Noah had broken through the storm and locked into the bliss of his victory, the bliss of his connection to the ineffable ¿ that sacred place unveiled to me, and now to my son, by the man with the sunshine in his eyes. There are few joys in life that can compare to that.¿
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I requested a review copy of Norman Ollestad¿s Crazy for the Storm because I imagined it would be similar to Krakauer¿s Into Thin Air, which I had read and enjoyed several years ago. Although the cover of Ollestad¿s book advertises that it is a memoir of survival, it was fairly different from what I had expected. The chapters alternate between eleven-year-old Norman¿s ordeal as the sole survivor of a small plane crash on a treacherous, icy mountain slope with the events in his life that lead up to the day of the crash. The chapters dealing with the crash are much shorter than the others, and I was glad of it. Although I found myself rooting for young Norman, I was not really caught up in his adventure. I just could not visualize what was happening. (This was also true of sections of the book that detailed his surfing experiences.) Maybe it is because I neither ski nor surf and I don¿t know the lingo that I just could not clearly picture the scenes. Then again, I have never climbed Mt. Everest (or any other mountain, for that matter), yet I was totally mesmerized by Krakauer¿s book.The parts I did enjoy in Crazy for the Storm were the chapters that explored the relationship between Norman and his Dad. A man with great charisma and a love of the exhilarating excitement of both skiing and surfing, Norman¿s father inspired both love and exasperation in his son. Crazy for the Storm explores the bonds that existed between the two and the legacy left to Norman after the crash.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Men have it rough in our world, and boys have it even rougher. Norman Ollestad tells the story of the tough time he had growing up with a demanding father and a demanding stepfather. The trials he suffered as a boy served him well when he had to find a way to survive after a plane crash. I liked this book but I think men would find it even more captivating. It seems to be a rare book these days, a coming-of-age memoir of a boy.
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In February 1979, a small chartered plane carrying the author, then 11 years old, his father, his father's girlfriend, and the hired pilot crashed into the side of a Southern California mountain. This memoir is the remarkable story told some 30 years later. Little Norm grew up surfing, skiing, skateboarding, and was pushed and challenged beyond any normal expectations by his dad, who claimed that competing wasn't about winning, not always with complete conviction. Big Norm was an attorney, had been a child actor and an FBI agent who wrote a book exposing some of the FBI's dirty little secrets. Among other things, his dad took Little Norm on a needlessly dangerous trip to Mexico, always confident that things would work out. Ultimately, the tough training saved the author's life. I am not a surfer, skier, or skateboarder, so some of the sports terms were foreign to me and the descriptions seemed overly detailed. For me, some of the language was a little too...flowery isn't the right word, but something close to that. Chapters about the author's early life are interspersed with chapters about the flight and the hours after the crash, and the book included a section of photographs that really added to the story. Crazy for the Storm was a sad, interesting, worthwhile read.
TigerLMS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Twink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm also going to reprint the small paragraph on the cover. It grabbed me and I'm sure it will do the same to you."On February 19, 1979, I was in a plane crash with my father, his girlfriend Sandra and the pilot of our chartered Cessna. Sandra was 30 years old. My dad was 43. I was 11. Just after sunrise, we slammed into a rugged 8,600-foot mountain engulfed in a blizzard. by the end of our nine-hour ordeal I was the only survivor."Hooked? This is a stunning, yet heartbreaking memoir. Knowing the outcome of Crazy for the Storm in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the book. Norman Ollestad had an unusual childhood. He literally grew up on the beaches of Topanga Beach in California, part of a surfing community. He also excelled at competitive skiing and most other areas he attempted. Behind him, encouraging him, driving him was his father, also named Norman Ollestad. The senior Ollestad was a child actor, appearing in the original "Cheaper by the Dozen" movie. He was an FBI agent, under Herbert Hoover, but quit after a year and exposed the dirty secrets of that administration in a book called Inside the FBI. He was also a successful lawyer. Ollestad himself describes his father as 'larger than life'. But he was what most people would see as a risk taker, living in and for the moment. He pushes his son to do the same. This new release from Harper Collins Canada is told in alternating chapters. It opens with the horrendous crash and the realization of their plight. It then abruptly switches to the author's childhood. At first I found this disconcerting as I was caught up in one story or the other. But I quickly realized that this dual story telling leads us the climax, where both stories collide on the top of a mountain. The author had what would be seen by many as an idyllic childhood. But after his parents divorced, his mother's boyfriend moved in. This man was physically and mentally abusive to both Norman and his mother, but his mother chose Nick many times over her son. Luckily young Norman has a surrogate mother in a family friend - Eleanor. Author Norman has a difficult relationship with his father at times. He laments that he wants to be a 'normal' kid sometimes, hanging out in a neighbourhood with friends. His father instead encourages him to excel and that step beyond in surfing and skiing. It is on the way to a ski competition that the plane crashes. Some of the childhood tales are incredible. On the way to Mexico to deliver a washing machine to his grandparents, they are chased and shot at by federales. They end up living in a remote village with locals for a bit before rescuing the vehicle and continuing. To me, this memoir seemed to be a way of honouring and making peace with his father and the loss of him after many years. It is a personal journey that we are privileged enough to share. As an adult and parent Ollestad physically revisits his childhood home, the crash site and the people involved. He realizes that without his father pushing him all those years, he never would have survived the crash. And he can see what his father wanted him to see. "Off the point at Topanga Beach I stared into the eye of a distant wave. Somewhere in the oval opening I grasped what Dad had always tried to make me see. There is more to life than just surviving it. Inside each turbulence there is a calm - a sliver of light buried in the darkness." There are colour photographs included with the book - arresting images of his father and candid shots of the family. This is a memoir of survival - not just a plane crash, but of his life. A totally arresting read.
courtb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing story of survival and the bond between father and son. A little too much technical wording when describing the mountains and surfing.
dsheise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
ThorneStaff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book was compelling and well-written; you wanted to find out what happened to young Norman in the end. However, the book is not for persons easily offended by language and sexual innuendo. Beach culture is not a pretty thing. Still Norman managed to craft a life for himself that appreciated his father's rather cavalier approach towards introducing his son to danger. And, his adult self could see both the good and the bad in his mother's boyfriend's interactions with him.
kristinmm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was really interesting; I read it all in one sitting. At first the chapters switching between the plane crash and the author's childhood leading up to that point annoyed me because I wanted to know the survival story right away. I began to also get sucked into the background story though and in the end, I found the alternating format very instrumental to the overall memoir. It's an amazing thing that the author survived such an ordeal at the age of eleven but he at least had the knowledge of all the previous dangerous experiences that his father had pushed him into at an even earlier age.
rbooth43 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A son's experience of his own father¿s unconventional approach to parenting, and how it led to the boy¿s ability to survive in a situation his father had not planned¿the crash of their chartered Cessna into a mountainside. Ollestad recounts between his travels with his surfer father, his life with his mother and her abusive boyfriend, and his fight for life as the lone survivor of the plane crash. It is a story of both a father¿s successes and his failures, and is as much about surviving the actions of child-like adults as about the dangerous descent down the ice-covered mountain. At times remarkable, at times heart-wrenching, Crazy for the Storm is a father, son read¿a tale that proves the power of the human spirit can rise against any challenge. i reviewed it in Bookreporter as a arc reviewer, but I have mixed feelings to this book, being a mother it was a very sad read.
ungarop on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Norman exposes his thoughts about his father and how they prepared him for the crash that he experienced. Through the alternating back story of his childhood right before the crash and the events of his survival, Norman makes you feel like you truly understand what he went through as a child and in the immediate aftermath of the crash. An engaging read that was difficult to put down.
tintinintibet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was such a pleasant surprise - I was captivated right from the start, and couldn't put it down. I loved the juxtaposition of the author's childhood and the crash itself and his relationship with his father was so beautiful and complex. Incredible story of love, strength, survival, and human capabilities... I would recommend this book to anyone, I thoroughly enjoyed it.