In the winter of 1979, 11-year-old Norman Ollestad Jr. was on a private plane with his father, his father’s girlfriend and a pilot, on the way to pick up an award from a youth skiing competition. After a crash in California’s San Gabriel Mountains, only young Norman survived the descent to safety.
In his riveting memoir Crazy for the Storm, Ollestad describes the unique childhood that both put him in harm’s way and gave him the tools for survival. Chapters alternate between an account of the crash and its aftermath, and events from the year prior to the crash. Along the way we learn about the two male influences in his life: his father, Norman Sr., a thrill-junkie attorney who pushed young Norman to the brink of his abilities as a skier and surfer, and risked both their lives on a car trip through Mexico; and his mother’s boyfriend, an ill-tempered alcoholic brutally hard on any perceived moral failings in young Norman.
The result is in part a white-knuckle adventure narrative in the tradition of Into Thin Air, but it’s also a fascinating personal story. In a clear, compelling, authorial voice, Ollestad sorts through his conflicting feelings regarding how he was raised—anger over how much he was pushed by male authority figures, mixed with a realization that those events gave him the determination to surmount ridiculous odds—and his struggle with survivor guilt. Hear the true story straight from the author’s mouth this week.