Review of Crazy For The Storm by Norman Ollestad
On February 19, 1979 the author, who was eleven at the time, was a passenger on a chartered single engine Cessna 172 that crashed into the San Gabriel Mountains. Also on the plane was the author's father, the father's girlfriend, and the pilot. Eleven year old Norman Ollestad was the sole survivor. This is the story of the accident and how he made it off the mountain along with the story of the author's relationship with his adventurous dad.
The story of the accident and the trip down the mountain is interspersed with the story of young Norman growing up. The author tells the two stories in alternating chapters. Neither story is strong enough to stand alone. Together, though, the two stories complement each other in a way that makes for interesting reading.
Most of the book is told from the perspective of the author from the age of eleven and younger. By the time of the accident the author's parents are divorced. Like most kids of divorced parents, time was split between the father and mother. The mother takes up with an abusive man who is constantly fighting with young Norman. The father takes Norman to exotic locales and tries to make up for lost time by encouraging his son to challenge himself both on land and in the surf.
Young Norman spends a lot of time facing impossible challenges set up by his father, whether it be skiing treacherous mountain slopes covered with freshly fallen snow or surfing waves as high as two story buildings. But Norman meets the challenges and gains from the experiences. So when Norman finds himself in the precarious position of just surviving a plane crash atop an 8,600 foot mountain peak, he has the skills and courage needed to make his way down the mountain to safety.
At the end of the book the author returns to the site of the accident. He learns from the official NTSB report and from speaking with an experienced pilot that the accident was unnecessary and was due to mistakes made by the pilot, who paid with his life.
The author, now a father himself, finds himself pushing his young son Noah in much the same way as his father had pushed him. Life is full of challenges. Those who are best prepared are most likely to meet those challenges.
This is a well crafted memoir worth recommending.