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North of Normal

North of Normal

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

Book - 2014 | First U.S. edition
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Growing up off the grid amid multiple generations of dysfunction, former model Person chronicles her journey to reclaim her life on her own terms. Determined to abandon civilization for a hand-to-mouth existence in the wild, her charismatic grandfather Papa Dick uprooted the Person clan from suburban California to the forests of Canada when she was just a baby. Together with her teenage mother Michelle--her father long gone--Person spent 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.
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, [2014]
Edition: First U.S. edition
ISBN: 9780062289865
Call Number: 746.92092 P4671n 2014
Characteristics: 339 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm


From Library Staff

Most people escape to the wild -- the author found herself on the run from it.

While some escape to the wilderness to find themselves, Person's memoir describes how she escaped her family of back-to-the-landers so she could understand who she was.

From the critics

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ArapahoeChristineS Dec 31, 2020

This unsettling memoir of the author’s unconventional and abusive (in a few ways) left me feeling raw. This is a difficult yet fascinating story that will not be for everyone.

Oct 26, 2019

This was an interesting read. I know she was relying on memories of family members as well as her own but I felt that some of the story was embellished and the facts were changed to fit the story. Her family members were high on pot most of the time, how could they possibly have reliable memories. I find it questionable to live in the Yukon during - 40 c weather in a tipi. Nothing between the people and the weather except a piece of hide. Another odd event was when Karl had an accident at work. They were living in Celeste at the time. Why would he be moved to Nanaimo hospital when Vancouver has hospitals are better equipped to care for this type of injury? However she had a very unconventional upbringing and I am very happy for Cea that she is happily married with a family she craved.

Sep 04, 2019

'North of Normal' is a book that had me intrigued throughout. I enjoyed reading about Cea's life and I found it all very interesting. There were points that were graphic but I understand why- it's just a warning that I put out to my book club and others that I have recommended it too. This is an adult book and it has a lot of adult themes and for others, maybe a lot of triggers. None the less these moments made you feel more for Cea and what she went though. There were moments where I was disgusted, frustrated and utterly confused- which I'm sure if only a fraction of what Cea must have went though as a child and young adult.
In her later years I was happy to read about how her and her mother's relationship gradually shifted over the years and although they still had their differences they made amends and built those bridges back to one and other. Their goodbye was the only moment that made me crying well I was reading it.

All in all I enjoyed this book and further drives me to find others like it and read about the lives that others have similarly faced. Again, a good solid book worth reading if the topic seems to interest you.

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.

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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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ArapahoeMaryA Sep 21, 2020

Sometimes I feel like I’m defined by what I’ve survived, and I’m not sure if I like that.


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