Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
Survival can be defined as many different things. You can survive or overcome an illness or a disease. You can survive an earthquake, hurricane and even when your parents divorce. But, how do you survive and learn cope with watching your father die right in front of you? Even with the wherewithal and knowledge and skills to cope and deal with insurmountable situations, the outcome is not always what you want or hope for. This brings us to Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad.
Norman Ollestad was excited. Boarding a chartered Cessna in Santa Monica and heading for the mountains of Big Bear to receive his first place trophy in skiing, little did any of the passengers on this small plane know that their fate was sealed. Not long into the flight the unthinkable happened. It crashed in the San Gabriel Mountains. On the aircraft were his father, his father’s girlfriend and the pilot and Norman.
The author tells of the courage, fortitude, persistence and never-ending determination of an 11-year-old child who will not give up on life. Alternating chapters between the plane crash and what led up to his winning his first trophy, the author draws the reader inside the mind of the character. Not only does he describe in vivid detail the crash and the impact it had on Norman, but the heroic efforts he made to try and safe the other passengers.
Norman’s father was a man who demanded perfection from him and made sure that he always strived to be number one in everything that he did. Insisting that he ski, surf and play hockey, his father set up grueling practice sessions, which went beyond the normal realm of a child’s endurance and capabilities. Throughout the novel the author envelops the reader inside the mind of the father and his one goal: Making Norman tough, able to survive on his own and teaching him never to give up at anything. Failures are forgotten and the next success is what is focused on.
Intertwined with this his Nick, his mother’s boyfriend a second dominate figure in Norman’s life. Nick, living an unfulfilled life, constantly drunk and preaching his ideas to Norman. Inflicting punishments on him when he lied, or disobeyed him. Insisting that in order to become a better person he would have to excel in school, eat the way he felt he should, not the way he did, and follow his rules or pay the consequences.
As the chapters alternated between the crash and what life was like living on the beach, the reader becomes so immersed in both, the you become one with Norman as he describes how he finally gets down and to safety. Next, you become frustrated, angered and sad at the way he was treated by a man who expected him to be what he felt he should be. Both men wanted to mold Norman into their perfectly sculpted model of what an 11 year old should be and aspire to. His father demanded that he ski and surf regardless of the weather conditions or how dangerous it might be. At times you feel like yelling at him and telling him to stop and cut him some slack. Yet, if not for the hard-nosed way he taught him to succeed and never give up, Norman might not be here to recount his amazing story.
Nick, on the other hand, when Norman is finally brought to safety, finally imparts on him that he does not want him to be another him. He is trying, but not always the right way, to get him to be more than he is and ever will be.
Called the Golden Child by his father he learns to stretch him beyond his physical capabilities. He did not allow him to make choices when it came to how many runs they would make during practice. The memories of his childhood helped him survive and made him the adult he is today.
Living life in the 1970’s and experiencing what he did can make anyone want to have experienced much of what he was exposed to and did. But, the hardest thing he had to do was living up to his father’s expectations of him and Nicks. Trying to always prove you to others is hard but for Norman he not only had these two men but his friends where he lived too.
Imagine having to see your father frozen in the snow and still not believing that he is gone. Imagine trying to safe another life and you can’t even with all of your knowledge and skill of skiing.
However, in the back of his mind throughout the book he always hears his father’s voice telling him to go on and never gives up.
Survival, courage, persistence, diligence and much more are only some words to describe him, even now.
After telling about the crash and what led up to it, Norman decides 27 years later to investigate the reason that the plane went down. Unfortunately, nothing can bring back his father, his girlfriend or the pilot, but we all need closure and we all need answers. Now, a father of a 6-year-old boy, Norman tries to balance the way he teaches his son Noah trying not to impose his passions on his son. Yet, in his words, “he feels obligated to expose Noah to my fathers’ passionate nature, his ability to live life to the fullest. Managing these opposing forces has always been a difficult balance.”
Finally, I did watch the video and read many articles about the crash. Listening to Norman’s words as an adult and watching the videos of the crash made this story even more real. Seeing him as an 11 year old child and listening to him recount the events, brought tears to my eyes, as did the ending of this book. I can tell you now that wherever your father is he is beaming at his Golden Child and proud of the man and father you have become.
I would more than recommend this that I read in one sitting and could not put down.
I review books for bookpleasure.com