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

4.16 (4,329 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Sex, drugs, and . . . bug stew? In the vein of The Glass Castle and Wild, Cea Sunrise Person's compelling memoir of a childhood spent with her dysfunctional counter-culture family in the Canadian wilderness--a searing story of physical, emotional, and psychological survival.

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 the Canadian wilderness. 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 a pot-smoking, free-loving, clothing-optional life under a canvas tipi without running water, electricity, or heat for the bitter winters.

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 seemed to be a mostly happy existence. For Michelle, however, now long separated from Cea's father, 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 in order to save herself.

While a successful international modeling career offered her a way out of the wilderness, Cea discovered that this new world was in its own way daunting and full of challenges. Containing twenty-four intimate black-and-white family photos, North of Normal is Cea's funny, shocking, heartbreaking, and triumphant tale of self-discovery and acceptance, adversity, and strength that will leave no reader unmoved.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 134 x 202 x 24mm | 260g
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Illustrations, unspecified
  • 006228987X
  • 9780062289872
  • 275,142

Back cover copy

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 in the late 1960s, when she is just a baby. Together with her teenage mother, Michelle, 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.

For Michelle, though, one crucial element is missing: a man. When she 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, through a career as an internationally successful model, brings its own challenges.

Shocking, heartbreaking, yet often funny and infused with warmth toward her damaged family, this riveting memoir of growing up off the grid (amid multiple generations of dysfunction) describes Person's journey to reclaim her life on her own terms.
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Review quote

"Accounts of early childhood are tricky--too many details and it's impossible to trust the writer's memory--but Person navigates the challenge with real grace. Her clear-eyed memoir captures her family's quest and its collapse without bitterness. "--Boston Globe
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Rating details

4,329 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 38% (1,648)
4 44% (1,888)
3 15% (670)
2 2% (93)
1 1% (30)
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