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Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival Hardcover – June 2, 2009


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Surviving the Crash
Read an excerpt from Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco / S2e Book Publishing; First Edition edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061766720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061766725
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (223 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #565,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2009: The story itself could take your breath away: an 11-year-old boy, the only survivor of a small-plane crash in the San Gabriel Mountains in 1979, makes his way to safety down an icy mountain face in a blizzard, using the skills and determination he learned from his father. But it's the way that Norman Ollestad tells his tale that makes Crazy for the Storm a memoir that will last. He almost has too much to tell: a way-larger-than-life father--former child actor, FBI man (who took on Hoover in a controversial book), and surfer who drove his son to test his limits in the surf and on the slopes; a youth spent in the short-lived counterculture paradise of Topanga Canyon; a stepfather who could give Tobias Wolff's a run for his money; and of course the crash. But writing 30 years later, Ollestad is wise and talented enough to focus his story on the essentials, cutting elegantly back and forth between a moment-by-moment account of the crash and his memories of the difficult but often idyllic year leading up to it. More than a story of survival, it's a time-tempered reckoning with what it means to be a father and a son. --Tom Nissley

Amazon Exclusive Essay: It Starts With a Good Story by Norman Ollestad

It was time for my eight-year old son, Noah, to read before bed. "Eh," he groaned. "Reading is so boring. It sucks." He’d been reciting this same mantra for months. I was resting beside him in his bed and I saw his whole life crumble--a slew of poor report cards and father-son arguments, ending in long term unemployment. "What about Dr. Seuss?" I reasoned. He glared at me with his brown eyes. "It's okay," he mumbled. I opened the book he was reading for his class and handed it to him. He stared at it, mute. "Noah," I said from my lowest register. He proceeded to read at a snail's pace and I pointed out that it would take him twice as long as usual to get through the required five pages. So he ran the words together, not even stopping at periods. I grabbed the book and told him we'd be reading all weekend to make up for his lack of cooperation. For months I coerced him like that, urging him past his lazy monotone, trying to get him to connect with the story. It was a long few months.

When I was Noah's age I also disliked reading. I just wanted to hear the story without having to work for it. I had wished my dad could work the same kind of magic he did with surfing: he'd push me into the waves so that I could simply enjoy the ride, eliminating the most arduous, frustrating part of surfing--paddling for the wave.

My father was always asking my mother, who was a grade-school teacher, why I wasn't a better reader. She advocated patience, and encouraged me by tirelessly pointing out things in each story that I might relate to. My father was killed when I was eleven, so he never got to witness my eventual love of reading.

In order to help Noah find that love, I searched for a seminal moment in my past that had transformed me. There was no single thing. But during my reminiscences I flashed on Dad reading aloud my grandparents' monthly letters from Mexico. They had retired to Puerto Vallarta and their letters were filled with stories. Stories about an inland village where Grandpa went twice a week to buy ice for their fridge, to keep their food cold. Stories about helping a Mexican family after a hurricane hit Puerto Vallarta. Stories of secret waterfalls and secluded isthmuses that Grandpa and Grandma had discovered around Vallarta. And that’s when it hit me--it was very simple: the essence of my love for reading really emanates from my love for stories.

"How about I tell you a story tonight," I whispered with great zeal to Noah. His eyes lit up and he smiled. "What kind of story?"

"Any kind," I said.

"A story about a magic skateboard would be cool," he suggested. As I spun the impromptu tale, he rolled onto his side and stared at me, totally focused. The following night I made a bargain with him: "First read five pages, then I'll work up a story about whatever you want." Before I got myself nestled beside him, he was halfway through the first page. Progressively, Noah's topics became more elaborate, and soon he was giving me outlines for stories. Somewhere along the line his reading voice changed--he was gobbling up the sentences, his voice alive with inflection. He'd broken through. Noah was hooked on stories, like I got hooked on riding waves. Once he'd experienced the pleasure of going on that narrative ride, reading became second nature, like paddling for a wave. It all starts with a good story.

Photographs from Crazy For the Storm

(Click to Enlarge)

My first surfboard, Topanga Beach, 1968 Mom, Dad, and Me, Topanga Beach, 1968 Dad in St. Anton, Austria, Early 1970's St. Anton with Dad

Me, Ski racing Skiing with Dad Puerto Vallarta, 1975 Three generations of Normans, 1977

From Publishers Weekly

In a spare, brisk prose, Ollestad tells the tragic story of the pivotal event of his life, an airplane crash into the side of a mountain that cost three lives, including his father's, in 1979. Only 11 years old at the time, he alone survived, using the athletic skills he learned in competitive downhill skiing, amid the twisted wreckage, the bodies and the bone-chilling cold of the blizzard atop the 8,600-foot mountain. Although the narrative core of the memoir remains the horrifying plane crackup into the San Gabriel Mountains, its warm, complex soul is conveyed by the loving relationship between the former FBI agent father and his son, affectionately called the Boy Wonder, during the golden childhood years spent in wild, freewheeling Malibu and Mexico in the late 1970s. Ollestad's unyielding concentration on the themes of courage, love and endurance seep into every character portrait, every scene, making this book an inspiring, fascinating read. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Norman Ollestad was born in Los Angeles in 1967 and grew up in Malibu. He studied creative writing at UCLA and graduated from UCLA Film School. He is the author of a novel, "Driftwood", and several screenplays. He is the father of a son, Noah, and resides in Venice, California.

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Customer Reviews

This is the story of Norman Ollestad who crashes in the Sierra Nevada mountains in a turbo-prop plane.
Audiobook Bandit
The writing is just as boring as it gets with way too much information about crap that just is not interesting or important.
N2WATA
I cried many times as I read this book and it helped me get in touch with what I was really going through back then.
halfmoonray

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Rick on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Sons--give a copy of CRAZY FOR THE STORM to your fathers. Fathers--give a copy to your sons. And everyone else--share this harrowing and luminous story with someone special in your life.

Norman Ollestad's memoir has so many things going for it I'm not even quite sure where to begin. The tragic event at the core of the story will be well documented so I'll focus on the book's numerous other qualities.

On some level, every son will recognize in himself the relationship between Norman and his father with its profoundly human emotional intricacies--a yearning to please, simmering resentment, subsequent guilt, enduring loyalty and love. Ollestad brings these to the surface in such a truthful way that--as a reader--you can't help but look in the mirror and take some time to reflect on your own journey.

I also enjoyed greatly Ollestad's ability to transport me to places I've never been--the sun-soaked beaches of southern California's bohemian surf culture, the ice-capped peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains. You are there throughout with young Norman as he crosses the threshhold into manhood, aided by the wisdom and lessons of his late-father, whom he tragically loses.
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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful By amazonbuyer on June 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Norman Ollestad Jr and his dad were enroute to Big Bear Mountain when they ran into a storm. Unaware that he'd lost his bearings, the pilot of their small plane crashed into Ontario Peak. Norman Ollestad Sr died as a result of the impact.

Fortunately, Ollestad Sr. lived and raised his son to push limits and move beyond fear. Although he regularly put Norman Jr. in precarious spots, he simultaneously taught him to keep his wits about him in dangerous and unpredictable situations. It was this training that helped Ollestad Jr. keep his wits about him and survive the true life and death battle after the crash.

"Crazy for the Storm" isn't written in a "linear" format. The story moves back and forth between other events in Ollestad Jr.'s life and then back to the crash. For this particular story, this style didn't work for me. I kept wishing we could get back to the crash.

Additionally, the events specifically relating to the crash are vivid, tense, and "in the moment". The other events seem muted and distant, as if they occurred in a detached dream world. They didn't come out and draw me in.

I think that guys who are into extreme sport lifestyles will like this book. It will resonate with them and maybe they'll enjoy the coming of age events that are interspersed between the crash narrative.

For those of you who dig this kind of lifestyle, you may want to look up the video of Ollestad Jr. speaking of his experiences personally. I wasn't wild over the book, but the video definitely added a new dimension to the story for me. ETA: He is a riveting speaker and as I was listening to him, I kept wishing he had written the book in that "voice". It would have taken the book to a different level.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By C. Bayne VINE VOICE on May 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This isn't my type of book, but I managed to finish it in two days. This is the story of a plane crash at 8600 feet in a snowstorm and how an 11-year-old crawled and slid down the mountain to safety. It's a story about death, but it's even more about life and living life to the fullest. It's about how a free spirit father forced his son to push through fear to experience life.

I wasn't sure about the writing style at first - Norman Ollestad trades chapters back and forth between the crash and immediate aftermath, and events that happened the year before and up to getting in the plane on that fateful morning. There is a lot of dialogue in this book, but there are no quotation marks, which threw me for a chapter or two, but then lent the entire story a hazy, memory quality to. It almost had a stream of consciousness feeling to it, though the story is told in a linear way and doesn't really veer off into unrelated tangents.

After a couple of chapters, I settled in and enjoyed the spare, crisp, dreamlike style. The writing is pure, and I felt like I was there, both struggling to get down the mountain, and mastering fear to get through the waves. I don't know anything about surfing or skiing, but the author conveyed the sensations of flying through the world with fear and lightness. He conveyed how the things his father taught him saved him after the crash.

This is a fascinating story, and I'm glad I read it.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tim Challies TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after seeing it make appearances on most of the best-seller lists. This is a "Memoir of Survival" according to the subtitle, and it tells of Ollestad's survival after a plane crash that took the life of his father and his father's fiancee. Though that plane crash provides some cohesion to the story and though it was a life-defining event, it was a matter of only a few hours. So the survival in the story is much deeper-rooted in Ollestad's story of his relationship to his father. His father was a strange, egocentric man who had a very odd relationship to his son, constantly pushing him to do things he had no desire to do. Ollestad both idolized and despised his father. The story is interesting enough, I suppose, but after reading to the end I could think of few reasons that I would want to recommend this to anyone else beyond the usual human interest reasons. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with the book, I also did not find enough right with it that I'd recommend it to others. I wouldn't bother with it.
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