Pondering the pages ~ Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad
So I’m not really head over heels wild for Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad. I’m just OK with the storm. Knowing that the author survives takes away some of the suspense in this survival memoir. But when you factor in his age at the time and the how of it then it gets nerve wracking. This young man beat incredible odds and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He kept his wits about him when many times he could have completely given up and given in. Some unlikely circumstances converged to bring Norman off that mountain alive. We don’t learn until years later just perilous this journey of survival really was.
Chapters alternate between the plane crash and struggle to get off the mountain and Norman’s childhood. The childhood chapters set the tone for Norman’s instinct for coping with such traumatic circumstances. He struggled with a father who set extremely high expectations for his son and his mother’s boyfriend who was constantly picking at him to be better, do better. While his father used tactics smothered in love the boyfriend comes on with a strong-arm mentality. These are my least favorite parts of the book. While I have issues with the parenting styles most likely without these tough love lessons there is no doubt that Norman would not have made it off the mountain.
The chapters revolving around the mountain ordeal are, for me, the heart of this book. As a pre-teen Norman displays exceptional amounts of courage and fortitude. Many an adult would not have survived the harrowing conditions that faced this young man. At first he sincerely wants to believe his father is alive but succumbs to the realization that the man who guided him through life is no longer there for him. Channeling his grief he resolves to save himself and Sandra. She is physically and mentally beyond helping him. Without panicking Norman takes charge of the situation. With the body of the plane in a precarious position he creates shelter under the wing. After a time they hear the chop, chop of helicopter blades but it moves on without spotting them. Realizing that help isn’t coming he makes plans to abandon their sanctuary. If they are to get off the mountain Norman must depend on himself. And so starts the biggest challenge his young life. I leave the rest of this tale to Norman’s telling.
So I’m on the fence about this book. If it had been a straight tale of survival with a minimal of background detail I would have given it higher marks. While it’s helpful to understand his relationship with these men I just could have done with less of it. The survival chapters are exceptional. I guess you’ll need to read it and decide for yourself.
A good book should leave you…slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.
~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958