A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood - and How I Survived Both

ByCea Sunrise Person

feedback image
Total feedbacks:61
Looking forA Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood - and How I Survived Both in PDF? Check out Scribid.com
Check out Audiobooks.com

Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
peter thayer
I found this book to be a refreshing change of pace from what is usually on the shelf. I enjoyed a glimpse into her world. I would have liked to know more about her current husband and daily life, I enjoy rooting for. the under dog.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nick smith
I couldn't put this one down. Cea's story is so interesting and moving; I experienced all sorts of emotions through this book as I laughed, cried, and at times was so incredibly frustrated with her family. Beautifully written and overall an incredible story. Must read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrea kerr
Loved this book. Did not know that people lived like this. Its okay for people to go into the wilds and live like animals, but to take children with you is just not right. This girl went through so much she should have not had to. I wanted to take the sdults and shake them. These people were crazy.
The Memory Palace: A Memoir :: How to Draw What You See :: Track Animals―and Other Forgotten Skills (Natural Navigation) :: and Other Obsessions - Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities :: Canyons of Night (Looking Glass Trilogy #3) (An Arcane Society Novel)
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This woman survived some pretty harsh conditions as a girl, but she also describes the joy she felt in the wilderness, weaving a complex story. Quite enjoyable, although the last quarter of the book leaps forward too often and is a bit less compelling.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This memoir deserves five stars because it captured me, taught me and increased my thoughtfulness about the diversity of women's lives. We are all made better because of Cea Person's sharing an amazing life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The book was hard to read at times knowing what this child went through. The book can be inspiring for someone that experienced rough times during their childhood to give them hope that they can turn their lives around to be successful.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laura korwa
This was a page-turner. I still can't believe what I just read. What a fabulous memoir. The writing was great, and my emotions ranged from one extreme to another. Such resilience this little girl had, and bit of luck too, as she could have died at the hands of these animals who raised her, no matter how wounded they themselves may have been. I congratulate Ms. Person on her tenacity, and for managing to create a good life for herself in the end.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I had just read "The Glass Castle" before reading this novel. The reading of North of Normal was easier for me. I have to say that my first language is French. Maybe this makes a difference. North of Normal seemed more credible for me. What bothered me in The Glass Castle was that at the end, we learned that the mother (and brother) owned a property worth more than a million, all those years that they were so poor. How could they, who paid the taxes on that land? With what money??? That left me perplexed... So, I definitely prefered the memoir of Cea Sunrise Person
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is an excellent memoir. I could not put it down. Person's story is inspiring, unique, heart breaking and unbelievable. For me it ranks in the same realm as The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a gripping memoir.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
autumn dream
North of Normal is a powerful memoir & beautifully written. I am amazed at the ability of the author to build a life for herself and also to her ability to forgive the crazy and abusive behaviors of her family members. Her writing is powerful with rich detail. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a memoir of unbelievable dysfunction, resiliency of the highest caliber, and a view into the darkest form of a counter-culture lifestyle.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
melissa brogan
A stunning memoir of life lived in the forest with abusive, drug-addled, promiscuous, yet loving hippie parents and grandparents. As others have said, Cea's childhood is reminiscent of Jeannette Walls' (The Glass Castle). Cea manages, at the age of 13, to escape this life and live independently as a fashion model with the Elite agency, primarily in Europe. Much of the beginning of this memoir is repetitive and whiny, but so shocking that I could not put it down. Through fits and starts, Cea manages to escape her past and live a "normal" life as a wife and mother.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
roger whitson
I really liked both Falcon in the Mist AND North of Normal a Memoir of my Wilderness. I happen to know author of Falcon in he Mist and think she did a terrific job of a life-long study. I am awaiting her next book, continuation.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
anthony haden
As soon as I saw the author's name I knew this was going to be a terrific book...why? Pure and simple recognition. I was also the product a barely 15 yr old hippie mother with a string of lovers, absentee father, drugs, hippies, drugs, sex, drugs, crime, drugs and mental illness and did I mention drugs? For the children of those who fully embraced the best and worst of the hippy lifestyle and all the craziness that went with it, life can seem foreign even within your own nation. The idealistic intent which never quite lives up to expectation, the poverty and hardship, the extreme reactions to living on the edge and the ability to take absolutely insane situations in stride is a story I know all so well. There is something reaffirming about reading the experiences of others who "get it" but perhaps more importantly, this is a story about resiliency. It would be too easy to blame the mother, who was a victim herself, it would not do justice to the situation to portray it as just another crazy family although clearly mental illness was a very real factor...what makes this story so excellent is the authors ability to realize the positive aspects of her clearly unorthodox upbringing, sort through the rhetoric and pick out the factors that make for self determination and strength.

I do not know the author but kudos to you for having the strength to tell your story...in the effort to find and hold on to that much desired "normal" the temptation to never look back is all too real. Despite moving far away from the craziness of early life and upbringing, it takes a great deal of bravery to do what you have done. Family resents your quest for a better/normal life and others simply have no idea where you are coming from.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
In my opinion I didn't find the book (even after reading the review) what I thought it was going to be about. There were parts that I found quite boring and just skimmed through those. I guess because she reminded me of the 60's era where a lot of people decided to do away with the challenge of living and just live and dress as they do or don't please. Since I was in my 20's in the 60's there was not much different then what was happening then.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chrystine chambers
"I was fifteen years old. I had created my own life and now there would be no one stopping me." "I had become everything he " (Papa Dick) "despised". So states Cea when a daring, resourceful plan to find a modeling job in Paris, works out exceptionally well. And although I realize that she was VERY happy to put her past behind her, it WAS her past that enabled her to have the survival instincts and very wise frame of mind to get her where she was now.

Cea began her life living a hippie/survivalist lifestyle in a hand-sewn Tipi with her dysfunctional mother, her survivalist grandfather and grandmother, in a nudist free-love pot-smoking atmosphere, learning how to hunt, fish, survive in the wilderness -- and once she was old enough to realize what was going on around her, learning what SHE wanted -- And DID NOT want (especially her mother's free-loving boyfriends some of whom hit on her and more.)

I see that some of the reviewers did not like the nudity, profanity, pot-smoking presented in this book, but as someone who grew up in that "Hippie Era", and had no problem with naked people around me waking thru Central Park or dancing at an outdoor concert, where the air was thick with THAT smoke - and as someone who studied Survival courses and had more than their visits to pit toilets, outhouses and "walks through the forest", it was really just part of life. Of course I had a more stable (but also dysfunctional) family and home to go back to once my weekend adventures were over. So in a way I vicariously lived through the pages of this book and could relate to much of Cea's early narrative.

I had nothing but admiration for Cea's wise-beyond-her-years attitude, and how she put up with everything not only in her home with her family, but with what she encountered in Paris -- not all of it fun.....or worth remembering. But as she said, after hanging up on her mother 5,000 miles away -- "I had dealt with it"...."I was absolutely fine, without her" But was Cea really fine? The past eventually catches up with her in on horrifying morning when she wakes up, discovers she had vented her anger at Papa Dick on a boyfriend -- and did not remember a thing.

Not only a VERY caring therapist, but then a discovery about her father, a call to her mother, and a few years down the line, a visit with homeless man who practically all but channels her grandfather Dick. This is ENORMOUSLY RICH reading.

Inn small way, this book reminded me of another book I recently reviewed "Gone Feral" -- both very good books about a girl growing up living off the land, to be a woman who confronts and works with her past.

And as for the advice on the final page, the love that goes around comes around-- thank you Cea, for passing it on to a stranger.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
catherine draper
This is an extraordinary biography by a remarkable woman, Cea Sunrise Person, with an astounding resiliency and determination, from toddlerhood to young adulthood, to survive incredible hardship. I thank the author for persisting through seven years to chronicle her shocking experiences growing up with a dysfunctional family whose lifestyle was patterned on an extreme primitivistic philosophy. The family cluster was comprised of her mother, two aunts, an uncle and her maternal grandparents. The adults were frequently involved with a variety of sexual liaisons. Privacy and modesty were unfamiliar concepts. In the absence of a father, her grandfather, Papa Dick, assumed the role of an all-wise, all-knowing, eccentric and egocentric father figure—admired and obeyed.

We follow the Persons from a hippie commune in California to austere wilderness camps in Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon. Physical survival is at times precarious. Little Cea is often neglected, feeling lost among adults who are intent on being spaced-out on pot and drugs, and preoccupied with their sexual pleasures. Her mother has a lackadaisical, part-time, attitude to her parenting role. Being neglected, Cea seeks comfort from her Suzie Doll and a Big Blue Book of children’s literature. But she does receive sporadic affection from her mother and grandparents—enough to mitigate the worst of her loneliness and despair.

As Cea becomes seven her mother hooks up with a shifty character who survives financially by breaking into rural residences for shelter and thievery. Another of her mother’s partners involves Cea in pleasuring himself while (she finds out years later) her mother turns a blind eye. Readers will frequently cringe and wonder how much worse it can get. But Cea is a survivor and at the age of thirteen she sets a goal to become a fashion model. She overcomes incredible odds to distance herself from her family and succeed by her own wits, on her own merits. She gets by on determination and courage. She does make mistakes but tries valiantly to not let the ghosts from her past drag her down.

This is a wonderful book written in a factual, no-holds-barred style. I admired her bravery, at the age of forty-two, to share those experiences, positive and negative, which molded her to become the mature, happy and successful person she has become. The author left anger, fear and resentment behind to wholeheartedly embrace and sustain a loving and balanced relationship with her husband and three children.

PS: A note about the name Person. It is not based on the English noun ‘person,’ but is rather the Swedish patronymic meaning ‘Per’s son’ (the son of Per).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sean lemmons
North of Normal is Cea Sunrise Person's own story.

Cea was born to a teenaged mother, living off the grid, in a tepee in the wilderness, alongside her counter-culture grandparents. No electricity, running water, formal schooling and few, if any rules. Drugs were a daily part of the life of the adults around her. The approach to sex and nudity is casual and open. When she is five, Cea's mother Michelle takes her on the road with her latest boyfriend, living a nomadic life. And this life is just as chaotic and unusual. As Cea grows, she begins to question the lifestyle - and yearns for a more 'normal' life. She makes her own way - at thirteen years old.

Wow. The most intriguing, gut-wrenching, amazing stories are not fictional, but those that are true. Cea's upbringing, life and the changes that she herself implements are almost unbelievable. My heart broke for this young girl, who has no idea that her life isn't 'normal' until she grows older. I was torn on my feelings for Michelle. Her hedonistic ways are a product of the way she has been parented. Papa Dick (her father) is the force behind the step back from society. While seeing this as an idyllic lifestyle, he has damaged all four of his children irrevocably.

Person narrates this audiobook herself. And it brings to much to the listening, knowing that she is recounting her own story. Her voice is clear and easy to understand, with a slight gravelly undertone. The emphasis and inflections given to passages and events reflect Cea's reliving and retelling of her life.

I was entranced by Cea's story from start to finish. Highly recommended. Those who enjoyed The Glass Castle will enjoy Person's memoir. And there's more to Cea's story - it continues in her follow up book, Nearly Normal.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
blake deakin
"North of Normal" has a breezy, readable style---like a contemporary light novel. Cea Sunrise Person believably recreates the chaotic freedom of her childhood in the wilderness of Canada as seen through the eyes of a child. She readily admits that she didn't know, as a child, that her "hippie survivalist" lifestyle was not "normal". A child accepts the world as it is presented to her, and uses whatever resources she can find to feed her imagination. Cea was not a "feral child"---a feral child has no socialization at all, and usually no ability to use language. Cea was an imaginative child who had innate gifts for language from the start. This is a survivor's tale, but Person relates it with a light touch, and doesn't dwell on any victim status. The litany of improprieties and abuses is spelled out by Person's therapist, who appears in the last few chapters that round out the story of Cea's life as a model and finally a successful mother. Ironically, Cea's wild upbringing as a child of nature prepared her for later life in an "urban jungle".

The message the book conveys is that children are incredibly resilient and they adapt. They need to be protected from abuse, but not from experience. Cea now lives in the suburban security she hoped for, but as deplorable as some of her early experiences were, they laid the foundation for her rebellion and subsequent successful life. She adapted and moved on.

Not surprisingly, the author now gives lectures on overcoming fears and changing one's life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
elise dauteuil
I remember sitting in my grandma's house, reading a Readers Digest on a slow Saturday afternoon when I was around ten years old way back in the late sixties.I'm thinking the article was about the horrors of hippies procreating or some such, anyway, I remember wondering to myself if the hippies had kids, and if they did were they living an exciting life? Did they like being named Rainbow or Moonglow or whatever? Pretty sure at that moment I imagined a dorky name would be a fine trade off for a more exciting life. This book single handedly killed that pondering, believe me!

Cea Person's family hit the road to Weirdville way back then starting with her beloved grandfather, Papa Dick when he decided that modern life was the root of all, not evil so much as fear and poor living. And to Papa Dick the fear of fear was the one key of life. Well that and lots of pot and sex and nudity. So Cea was born into an alternative lifestyle to a very young and unprepared mother whose husband had already hit the road back to the mundane life leaving his new family to fend for themselves in ways that he probably couldn't imagine. Add in some obviously hereditary mental illness exacerbated by living in a tipi and staying high all the time and it's a recipe for taking the fun out of dysfunctional and making life twice as hard as it need be.

If you learn one thing from this autobiography and the others like it, it's that children are somewhat hard to break when they don't know any other way than the dysfunctional life they were born to. And yet Cea had enough experience with what I think of as the real world to know that her life was lacking, bear steaks notwithstanding. It was a harsh, unyielding lifestyle and it took its victims with no more empathy than the 405 at rush hour or a mile of concrete jungle. That's not to say that it left no scars, it would have been impossible to come away from this family unscathed, and she manages to show the cracks and breaks without wallowing in pain even though the pain reverberated throughout her life.

Halfway through the book not only will you wonder at the fact she survived, but you will also marvel at the fact that she was able to write such a clear and compelling summary with humor, heart and nary a rose colored glass in sight. You can't help but wonder what would have become of her if she hadn't found an unusual means of escape at such an early age.

Go ahead and set aside a weekend afternoon for this one because you will feel compelled to read it straight through. Hopefully Ms. Person has more stories in her, I think she's got a writer's soul.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andy b
Though Cea Sunrise Person is in my cohort, I led a far more staid, "normal" life, in spite of serious family challenges. I never became part of the "sex, drugs & rock and roll" sub-culture, but I've always been curious about those who jumped in with both feet. Person filled in some missing pieces with her account of wilderness life, sex, drugs and outside-any-"norm" life.

Her grandparents eschewed consumerist culture. Her mother never took on the mantle of responsible-for-herself adult. I don't judge either path. I was reared to believe the best path for a woman was finding a man who would support her. But drugs and sex with anyone who strummed my strings were not part of the bargain. I'm impressed by Person's inner strength, regularly challenged by her mother and absent father. She was a keen observer and grew up strong enough to figure out what worked for her...and what didn't.

It's a spoiler, so don't read on. Get there on your own steam. One of the things I loved about the book was that Person dabbled in the big-money, high-attention, ultimately risky world of modeling. That's a path that would have made her mother and grandparents shudder. But she not only embraced it. She also examined it. In doing so, she unearthed the treasures in the shaky earth on which she spent her childhood.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelly pfeiffer
How do you find your way to peace when your young life is all chaos? How do you define family when your family is primarily trauma and dysfunction? How do you find truth when you grow up surrounded by lies and deflection and mysteries? How do you travel from north of normal? I loved this book. The author grew up in a family that was far from anything most of us would consider normal. Her family is full of secrets. At four she was living in the woods and surviving off the land with her mother, grandparents, aunt and various strangers. Reading about how she not only survived her "north of normal" childhood, but came to understand it was a real experience. "The Glass Castle" by Jeanette Walls is the closest comparison I have read to this book - but this book is very different and much more satisfying in my opinion. As the author discovers the secrets hidden and buried by her family, she learns to accept and value them, and herself even more. How she manages to get past how she was raised and grow into a more conventional adulthood was fascinating. I highly recommend this book - but be prepared, it is not an easy read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mandy beckner
At once shocking, poignant, tragic, heartbreaking, and ultimately redemptive. This woman is a survivor. As a child of the 60's-70's myself, but in a much more traditional home, you knew there was another side to the story. This is unvarnished "hippie" reality. There was a purpose to the movement, that still rings true today in a world of political and civil unrest. Whether its fair to raise your kids in that extreme lifestyle could be seen as both self indulgent and obscene, though no childhood is perfect. I admire the author for sharing her story, and for her determination to make it through to the other side and consciously forge her own future.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kristina nemetz
I’m sorry to be what appears to be the only more negative review. My only issue with this book and with other memoirs like this is that it should be labeled a “story based on my childhood memories.” There is no way a child’s memory anywhere below the age of a teen (and even after for that matter) would be this detailed and specific. She should donate her brain to science. I had to start skimming through it because although I wanted to find out what eventually happened to her I found it absolutely ridiculous to believe she had that kind of recall. Conversations in detail, whether someone lit a cigarette or took a sip of coffee. I understand this is okay if it’s labeled a “memoir”: maybe it’s me, but my childhood memories are just snippets and I might recall a few exact phrases, not entire long conversations word for word, or in such precise detail. It’s impossible. Has anyone else who read this wondered the same?
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jay dee archer
This is a compelling story of a fascinating childhood with an extraordinarily dysfunctional family. Ms Person describes her formative years with honest emotion and insight. The very end of the book explores her years from age 13 on, during which time she escapes the restrictions that come with a free-wheeling upbringing, then ultimately covers her resolution of those restrictions, but does so without as much introspection as she presents for her childhood. The "why" and "how" she is able to reach the resolution is therefore not explored with as much detail as the reader might desire. In any case, the book is an interesting and enjoyable memoir.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
siavash nazerfasihi
I don't know how to praise this book enough. As a parent, I ached for the little girl, Cea Sunrise Person, born to a mother unready to be a parent, far too young and inexperienced. Cea was often left to her own devices, with a family that was often reckless. She also witnessed sexual openness that she couldn't process. Although her mother repeatedly told Cea that she should be happy to have a mother who loved her, her experiences clearly reveal that sometimes love alone isn't enough - at least not if a parent isn't there to set boundaries as well as watch over and nurture a child.

If this sounds bleak and depressing, I hasten to add that Cea also had moments of great happiness. She lived on the land, with occasional time spent living in tipis. There were also periods when she lived outside or even in vacant cabins. It was a hardscrabble existence but also one that allowed her to be close to nature. She didn't watch television, spend time on computers, have her days overly scheduled. Instead, she learned actual survival skills, including hunting, foraging, and preparing food found on the land.

When she turned 13, Cea suddenly went to the other extreme and became a model (photos in the book reveal a girl who looks far older than 13, extremely attractive). She still lived on her own, no parent to chaperone her as she traveled internationally for modeling jobs, but at least she had apartments and other more conventional places to stay. And yet she didn't feel any more normal, any more grounded than when she lived the hippie lifestyle. Modeling didn't assuage her loneliness or help her feel at home in the world. She still felt alienated from the rest of society.

So how did Cea survive? What were the keys to her resilience? And where did she find the strength to move on to....well, I won't reveal the rest. I was completely captivated - and sometimes haunted - by this memoir.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
North of Normal is an incredible memoir of the unconventional and dysfunctional life of Cea Person. She was born to her mother, Michelle, when Michelle was just 16 years old. Her Mom soon divorced her Dad and they ended up living with Michelle's family. The grandfather, Dick, was what we would call a "hippie" or "survivalist" - he moved them out of California into the "wilderness" of Canada as he believed in living off the Land (and was evading the Law in the US). Cea actually has many fond memories of their life in the wilderness (on an Indian reservation) but both trouble with the Law and her Mother's desperate need to find a boyfriend would uproot them from their family. They spend the next couple of years living with Michelle's boyfriend, Karl, a sweet guy who basically doesn't have his Life together. His grand scheme is growing pot plants and inhabiting unoccupied homes and stealing items to furnish their "home". Their tumultuous (yet loving) relationship ends and her Mom quickly gets involved with a different guy. They end up living with Barry - a guy who ends up molesting Cea. They end up going back to living with their grandparents except that Cea now realizes how narcissistic her grandfather really is. He was her favorite person as a child but realizes he really only loves himself. And her family is in shambles - her grandparents separate, her Uncle is in a mental hospital, and her Mom seems only to be happy in the company of men - even if they are bad men. Heart-broken and desperate (but blessed with her Dad's good genes), she ends up entering a modeling agency at age 14 and basically, living on her own for the next decade. The true beauty of this book, however, is that Cea, after many years of therapy and finding true love, learns to appreciate her Mom for loving her the best she could (given her own issues and demons). This book kept me up all night as I couldn't put it down. It is an incredible (and beautifully written) memoir of family, dysfunction, craziness, and love. And ultimately, about the resiliency of the human Spirit.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nancy wilson
Wow! What a wild read this was. Cea Sunrise Person has the knack of writing as if she is in the room with you, reminiscing about her crazy childhood. I do not mean crazy "oh that family, they sure do some crazy stuff" I mean really, truly, "oh my goodness, it is lucky this child came out alive" crazy. I feel like I am a good judge of that, as I also experienced a crazy childhood, but it pales in comparison to this author's. Being an avid reader herself from early on, she definitely knows how to fashion and maintain a compelling story arc. Like the fairy tales into which she escaped as a child, her tale has all the elements through which children are able to work through their emotions, fears, and needs, and come out strong at the finish, having endured barely imaginable trials. As I read an ARC, there were some edits needed, but if you want to read a very personal story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, up all night, or, in my case, force you to dive ignominiously to the bottom of a pool at a well-known hot springs to rescue it when you drop your copy in - yep, I did do that - this could be the book for you. And like some of the best fairy tales, it has a happy ending. What a relief.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Cea Sunrise Person is living proof that you don’t have to have a formal education, you don’t have to have University degrees, you don’t have to have years of journalistic experience, and you don’t have to have years of writing and publishing experience to write an excellent story.

The Kootenay Plains in Northern Alberta is a beautiful part of the Province, nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, but it is no place to live in a tipi with dysfunctional grandparents and a barely functioning mother. What could go wrong?

But it gets worse. From there onto the Stoney Indian Reservation, again in a tent, and then following her mother's ill-considered choices in partners throughout her adolescence.

At times heartwarming, and as often heartbreaking, Cea Person vividly interprets these experiences for us from her perspective as a child growing up. A child that has the utmost faith in her grandparents and single mother, and whose upbringing was very far removed from “normal”. Cea’s honest and uncompromising story of her childhood is an excellent read and I highly recommend it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I was shocked and saddened while reading this book. I was born a few years later than Cea, and grew up idealizing the hippy lifestyle. Living close to nature, eating wheat germ and granola, refusing to buy into a commercial lifestyle - that's what I wanted when I was a teenager. Luckily, I didn't grow up in a family like Cea's, which was a true hippy family with all the ugly and dysfunctional parts including heavy drug use, communes, casual sex and mostly leaving children to raise themselves.

Cea didn't realize when she was very young that most children don't watch their mother have sex with their current boyfriend, they eat and bathe regularly, and they don't live in tipis. By the time she started school, she could see that her classmates lived much different lifestyles, but she didn't really understand how wacky her family was until she was nearly a teenager. She was molested, breathed in clouds of pot smoke every day, had multiple "dads" as men passed in and out of her mother's life, and was homeless and at the mercy of strangers much of the time.

Most children raised that way would have gone on to be another generation of the same type of person. By her strength of character (and a good therapist), she was able to overcome her childhood and make peace with her mother, but the decades of neglect, abuse and wandering left their scars.

This is a book that will make you angry and sad, and it will make you go hug your kids and mentally promise to be a better parent. I admire Cea for her resiliency and determination to succeed. And I'll never think of the hippy movement again without picturing a four year old girl living in a tipi.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
claire mcmillan
I wasn't sure how to approach this review. Cea Person has written a wonderful memoir about growing up in the counter culture. I identified with far too much of it to be fully objective. Cea is a more forgiving person than I am. While she doesn't hesitate to identify the harm multi-generational neglect caused, she takes care to highlight what she sees as the good. Person humanizes people she could easily have vilified. Child of hippies is a new memoir genre, as we age and send our own children out it's a natural time to reflect, Person has written one of the best yet on the experience.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
karen scanlan
"North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both" by Cea Sunrise Person is one memoir you don't want to miss. The author had a highly, unconventional, counter-culture, hippie childhood that most of us who were alive at that time only read and heard about. I was too young to be involved in the hippie commune lifestyle. I used to dream about being part of it without really understanding the full meaning of what it was all about. Needless to say, I really became immersed in this book.

It's well written with a smooth, but, swift flow. The Person did an excellent job of crafting her memoir in the telling story of her story and about all the people in her life. The memoir is one of those "it has to be true because you can't make it up" books.

I absolutely loved it! A must read for any Baby Boomer who was part of or dreamed of being part of or was fascinated by the hippy anti-establishment lifestyle.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The first page is all that you need to understand where this book is about to take you. Cea Person not only spent her childhood living in the wilderness but with a Dysfunctional family (capital-D intended). I don't know how many times I shook my head in disbelief at what I was reading. The question becomes: how did she survive? That is truly the main story. Living with a mother who used drugs, changed boyfriends with the seasons, showed no basic morality or decency ... could she have loved her daughter? Certainly, but it seems often secondary to herself. This book is a page-turner, one you can't put down. When will the next boyfriend show up? Where will the family live next? How will they survive without income? I suppose this is also a story of hope. Cea - at least at times - seems the one most likely to survive. That was my hope from page to page. Does she? You'll have to read the book yourself and find out.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laurie bridges
Heart breaking story. I've given quite some thought as to what I wanted to write about, only to decide not to fully psychoanalyze book.

I do think that the root of all the family's troubles come from the authors grandfather. She alludes to this towards the end but avoids placing the full blame on him (At least it seemed that way to me), rather instead saying it was the combination of the times, "sex", "drugs" and whatever. We don't really find out too much of his story, but all signs seem to point to some sort of abuse in his childhood as well.

Author doesn't go into great detail about how she came to find her "new normal". And to be honest I don't really blame her for not going into much depth regarding her current personal life.

It's not book for the faint of heart.

There was so much talk of pot smoking (Literally every other page) I wonder what the authors stance is on recreational pot use.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
evan folkman
North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both by Cea Sunrise Person~
Wow! What a story! You don't even get to Chapter One before you read that Cea's mother has sex with men in the same bed as Cea is sleeping and waking (this was in the Prologue).
What a crazy but interesting ride through Wilderness Hippie Life.
Cea longed for "normal" before she even knew what it was. I couldn't put this book down! I found it funny in parts...I re-read parts, too. You say to yourself, "Did I just read...? Yes, yes I did, hmm..."
Naked people, drugs, sex like candy, and living in tipis. You have to read this book.
God bless Cea for making her way in life despite all we read about her days and years and family and such.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book was both fascinating and depressing. Another nail in the coffin of the 60s counter culture which is glamourized in movies like Easy Rider, but ultimately torn apart in novel after novel written with some hindsight. I say that's depressing because I love the "idea" of living off the grid, but this book (and many others) show how impossible that really is if you are not completely and totally dysfunctional. It helped that I have traveled to most of the locations discussed in the book and know them well, and that there are certain members of my family with personalities similar to Papa Dick who, for all his stated idealism, turns out to be just another narcissist willing to drag everyone around him down into his insanity. I read the book in one sitting which is rare for me and a testament to how well written and interesting it was. Highly recommend it to anyone.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alison grooms
The writer is an amazing, brave woman, and I could not put the book down. I also had a strange childhood, but nothing like this. At last I feel south of normal. The writing is powerful engaging and the story leaps off the page and grabs you by the throat.
The written truth behind a lot of the 70's new age movement, and the damage done by adults refusing/or unable to be adults. I was amazed at how calm and logical the writer was over such rough writing ground. Written through the eyes of a child, the story makes strange sense and has perfect flow.
I read 20,000 pages a year and this is the best book I have read in 2014. If you survived a rough childhood, then be prepared for the thoughts and feelings this book will bring up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sub zero
Cea Sunrise Person takes us on the journey through her unique (for most of us, in modern times) childhood and the personalities and relationships she meets along the way.

The ride feels almost as though it is over too soon, as her writing style has a comfort and ease to it that lets her story wind its way through the wilderness and back again. Her storytelling, in North of Normal, is linear, which only makes the story that much easier to get sucked into (I had to set a timer, or else I would have read it all in one go).

Her voice, as a child, is authentic. She doesn't stop to reflect on her experiences, along the way, from her perspective as an adult retelling her memories, but rather reflects on them, very occasionally, as they occurred to her at the time, as a child, embedded smoothly in the story. Her story reads as though we are walking paths and around lakes and riding stick horses right along with her, at the same age. She really has a writing style that is immersive for the reader.

Cea's story is relatable, not only for the other souls who were raised in similar circumstances, but also, perhaps, for people raised adjacent to (it's hard to say "by" for the most extreme cases) self-involved parents. Her relationship with her mother reminds me a bit of Stockholm Syndrome (which seems to be the parenting philosophy of many disordered narcissistic parents and generally self-involved parents, whether they are just not ready for parenthood or just not ready for it even though they planned it).

I really enjoyed her tale, and toward the end, she does step over some larger gaps in time, which perhaps were not crucial to moving the story forward, but considering the pacing and style of the rest of the memoir, that sudden shift in the passage of time is a bit jarring and feels a bit like girl-Cea has been grabbed away from us too soon. It isn't a big problem, but it was the only thing that didn't feel authentic or organic about Cea Sunrise Person's memoir of her childhood and her family.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
a lib tech reads
This is a fascinating memoir. The author has led a very unusual life and she writes her experiences well, with a natural gift for storytelling. What makes this story so interesting is the characters that drift in and out of her life. There are some of the author's personal photos included that help to set the scene. Much of the book focuses on the author's childhood in the Canadian wilderness, which I found very interesting. Eventually she makes her way into civilization and launches a modelling career. There is much sadness in this story but also redemption, forgiveness and hope. It is a very worthwhile read, and the simple, fluid style of writing makes it an easy one. I enjoyed it so much I was sad that it was over, although the resolution of the story is very satisfying.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
If a book can bring emotion out of me, it's a must read. A few times I filled up and had to put the book down! I can't imagine a small child going through what Cea did. As a single mom of a daughter this made me feel some kind of way. My heart ached at times for Cea. She had so much abnormal exposure it was her normal. I loved this read and wish the book could still go on. Cea--- if you read this? You have been through it all. You now have a beautiful family and I am so happy for you. I don't even know you but your little life as a child was just .... I can't even articulate my feelings. My daughter had everything and no child should go through what you did --ever. It made you strong and I admire you greatly. You are truly an amazing soul. Enjoy your beautiful life. Stephanie.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
brennan sigel
I bought this book after it was recommended to me after reading "The Glass Castle". It was a page turner and very interesting/sad story. I wished the chapters focused more on her life once she left the wilderness. This book can be slightly offensive when it comes to people living a natural life. Many references were made by the writer about her feelings on using natural herbs/alternative medicine/grandfathers beliefs which is understandable considering her mother/grandfathers outcome but something to be aware of. Overall, I would recommend this book and look for more books by the author in the future.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Cea has quite a story to tell. Her unusual childhood makes for an entertaining read. Cea is a gifted writer and captures the ragged homemade tipis and odd strangers like bugs in amber. You can see them held there, the way she saw them.

Sadly, you often get to feel what she felt. You adore Papa Dick when she adores him. So your heart breaks with Cea's when she sees for the first time how little he really cares. When she goes back to her grandparents and her grandfather complains about her wearing underpants his selfishness is breathtaking.

Cea's mother was not a great mom. Still, Michelle was the shining bright spot of the crazy person family. She was the closest thing to a functional human being. she is as selfish as her father. Her choices in men and living arrangements boggle the mind. I will not be the only reader that breathlessly wishes that Karl would come and give Barry the beating of a lifetime. It is sickening that Michelle was right there and unmoved.

We hear Michelle tell Cea again and again that she is lucky to have a mother who loves her, its more than a lot of kids have. Only at the end do we realize that Michelle was talking about her own mother. Only then do we see that before Michelle did nothing, Jeanne and Dick did nothing. They did not act until Cea was nearly killed.

The Person family could not be more tragically named. So many times they failed to act in the most basically human of ways. When Dane takes the baby and threatens her life, the girls make no attempt to call authorities. The wait, even after the baby is silent. They wait until their parents come home and their father takes the door off its hinges. It is the sort of nonsensical choice they make again and again.

I was dismayed to find out that Cea's biological father became some sort of expert of children. I do not know who he is but I wish he was identified so that people could take his advice with a clear view of his own behavior. Cea has made peace with him and they are close. But that does not change the fact that he created the situation she was raised in just as much as her mother did. He reminds me of Rousseau, writing about childhood while dumping his children in orphanages. It infuriated me.

Cea doe a good job of realistically assessing her own brokenness. On occasion, she can be repetitive. But her story is special and she tells it well.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is a fascinating memoir of what it was like to grow up in the extreme fringes of 60s counterculture. Person and her family lived on the land in middle-of-nowhere Canada. This wasn't Homesteading, this was a case of extreme withdrawal from society- living in a tent, zero modern conveniences (including heat), and all the drugs you could smoke. I found Person's story absolutely intriguing, though her narrative also made me quite angry with her parents and grandparents. It's hard to read about a child being denied heat in frigid Canadian winters (yeah, I know, I've been co-opted by the man.) I'm impressed that Person survived and survived so well, given the harsh conditions of her upbringing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I was originally drawn to this book because I am very interested in homesteading and back to the land type movements. I'm also a father to two young sons, and I often contemplate the impacts to my children if we were to leave the city and make our own way on a farm out in the country. . Of course I'm not talking about the extremes the author was raised in, but it is a factor to be considered. The author endured a childhood full of drugs, free love, sex, and more. It was a different era, and now you would expect CPS knocking at the door if this happening.

This memoir felt genuine, and the author was able to convey her emotions and experiences very well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
One of the best memoirs I've read in some time. Person tells the story of her very unconventional and sometimes painful upbringing. A child of a young hippie type mom, her mother leaves her father early on, and rejoins her family of origin living in a teepee. Drugs, numerous lovers, a spotty education, and no real rules or schedule is the soundtrack of her growing up years.

Compelling, by turns humorous and heartbreaking, I could not put this down. I really commend the author for sharing her story, warts and all. It moves fast, the writing is well fleshed, and I felt I knew most of the main characters. You will recall this book and Cea Sunrise long after you finish reading it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is an excellent memoir. Miss Cea captured my attention within the first few pages & had me hooked not willing to put it down all day yesterday. My only real complaint is that I finished it early this morning and want more. I am a fairly slow/ average speed reader, this is a very quick & easy read. Perfect for a rainy day at home or relaxing day at the beach or mountains. I am pretty open to almost all genres but tend to lean more towards memoirs & this one is definitely one of my new favs. In the chapters I met a brave, independent, humble, and unique girl and her unusual family and acquaintances. Her story is one I will never forget. This book was both amusing and heart touching. This book is filled with nail biting adventures, dynamic characters and honest reflections on family. The story takes the reader all over the world. From cea's childhood in the "Bush" with her egotistical, anti establishment, & survivalist grandfather as the leader of her family, to a two year road trip with her mom and Karl (I greatly enjoyed reading his character), to her teen and adult life as a model in Europe. The majority of the story is told through Cea's ptv as a young child. Seeing her family & life through such young but yet mature eyes really connects you to this amazing little girl. For those of us who did not live during the 70s, this books shines a light on the hardships brought on by the free love and drug era. I have studied and even admired this period, always one to advocate that pot is the lesser of evils when compared to alcohol or other hard drugs and one to appreciate alternative/natural lifestyles and being open minded. This book gave me a new perspective as the selfishness of her mom and families choices forcing Car to be the adult. My heart broke for her when she was abandoned by her mom for a "party" or quick high or when she started school and was told she smelt funny by a classmate. We can all relate to the awkwardness of wanting to fit in and be loved. Her longing for normalcy and a stereotypical family is not only something I was blessed with but something I have taken for granted and at times even resented. The characters in this boom are very well developed. As she grows the reader is exposed to different sides of each person. As many other reviewers mentioned, I wish her adult life was more explored. I am so glad that the ending was one to be called "happily ever after". Thank you Cea for sharing your story. You are truly a role model. I hope to one day read another book with you as the author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
pedram keyani
I enjoyed Cea Sunrise Person's "North of Normal." Her memoir is based on her childhood in the 1960s in the Canadian wilderness. Her book was funny, but at the same time, disturbing to read. Person grew up among hippies with a single, teen, pot-smoking mother who didn't parent and a crazy family that included a grandfather that liked to do "nude yoga". Her mother had a series of lovers, one who even tried to molest Person. She manages to be resilient in spite of her crazy family, and land a modeling contract in her teens and escapes.

How she managed to become a decent person in spite of everything, only God knows.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
stephen ryner jr
North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person is a highly recommended memoir of growing up in the 70's in an unusual family.

The full title of North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both really tells you what Cea Person's life was like growing up off the grid and in a family where free love, free thinking, and drugs are the norm and common place - even when the norm isn't necessarily what is best for everyone, especially children. The poor parenting goes back to her grandparents, FYI, although her mother, Michelle, should have been shaken and told to snap out of it and grow up.

This memoir is one of those that convinces me that not everyone should have children or have the "right" to raise a child simple because they procreated. While you will read this and applaud Cea's ability to overcome her background and survive, even thrive, many will, like me, ask what toll did her childhood also cost her. And also many will, like me, realize that this story of one person's success doesn't mean all the other neglected children out there will have the same fortitude to overcome an awful childhood.

So, while this was an engrossing memoir, it is also a nerve wracking. Michelle was so poorly equipped to be a parent and, quite frankly, clueless and stupid, that young Cea is lucky she escaped being sexually abused. Many of the ideals embraced by her mother and grandparents ultimately proved less than noble or endearing as they were lived out in reality. I really wondered if there was something more going on, perhaps some mental health issues with the grandparents that were also present in Michelle, Cea's mother (and certainly proven in her uncle Dane).

Much like Jeanette Walls The Glass Castle, North of Norma is a compelling memoir - even while it infuriates you.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jamille mae lardizabal
Couldn't put it down. If you're into hippie kid memoirs, dig right in. Yet another mom who was cripplingly dependent on men. Add to that a wilderness upbringing with a pot-smoking family, and get ready for a wild ride. I'd like to know more about the Persons' citizenship situation. Did Papa Dick get passports for everyone? Was it easier to cross the border in the late 1960s? Is Person a Canadian citizen now? Anyway, highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lisa boyd
Person's memoir is not unusual: her story is one of growing up in an unconventional (putting it mildly) family in the free love era. Yet, her ability to write honestly and openly about her life: the poor choices her mother, still a child herself, made; the drugs and sex that were a part of any home they had, and the effect that this upbringing had on Person, are all ways in which Person is able to put her own stamp on a story that others often experienced.

Person allows readers a close-up view of her life. Sharing details of her upbringing and photographs help bring Person's childhood to life. There were parts of the story that saddened me, yet overall her story is also one of hope. It is also evidence that one's own poor upbringing does not necessarily doom anyone to repeat their parents' mistakes.

North of Normal ranks right up there with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: a must read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“Compelling” is a good description of “North of Normal,” autobiography of Cea Sunrise Person. “Raised” by a child mother, Cea grew up living in a tipi in the wilderness of Canada. Pregnant at fifteen, Cea’s mother moved to the wilds of Canada in a VW bus with her mother, father, two sisters and a brother.

The children had already dropped out of school and spent the days doing drugs, mainly pot and LSD. The parents set the tone, with free and open sex, daily pot-smoking and nudity. The move to Canada was to drop out of society - get away from “the Man.”

There, the family lived on whatever Cea’s grandfather could hunt and the family could forage. Clothing was scavenged rags worn only for warmth . The children lived as animals. Cea slept with her mother and her current boyfriend in a tipi, with sexual activity disrupting her sleep.

The “family” eventually broke apart. Cea’s brother, a schizophrenic, became dangerous and was committed to an institution. One sister became lost in the drug world. Tiring of the “open marriage,” Cea’s grandmother left her grandfather.

Cea’s mother was dependent on whatever boyfriend she could attract and Cea was toted along. Her education was in bits and pieces, when at all. She lived in trucks, shacks, poached houses, supported by property stolen by her mother’s boyfriend.

In short, Cea raised herself, and her mother, hungry for a normal childhood as she became exposed to civilized society. Her mother had no idea of child-reading, having been raised without education or nurturing, herself.

“North of Normal” is a well-written, gripping tale of this alternative upbringing that is hard to put down. The fact that Cea overcomes all to eventually become a happily married mother of three is the miracle of the story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bambinista cricket
This memoir chronicles the life of a child in a loose constellation of self absorbed "live for today" counterculture adults. It was a life lacking stability, safety or security. Person spares no one in her account and it shines with her honestly and raw memory. That she escaped intact and has carved a lovely life for herself is a testament to her strength. I do think much of her ability to succeed was also because of her beauty and you ache for all the kids in similar circumstances who do not have that as an option.

Along with "Etched in Sand" by Calcaterra, I think this book should be required reading for all in social services or anyone working with children. The learning curve for children coming out of this environment is steep and many do not make it. Person has done a wonderful job creating a portrait of this life and how she overcame it. You feel invested in her success and happy that she has landed so grounded. Brava, a great read and a wonderful memoir.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
neha pal
I have serious doubts that there are any families that are NOT dysfunctional. At the same time, few families are as far out there as this one is.

Is it wrong? Today, there would be intervention from the government,although some think that solution is nearly as bad as what KIDS are leaving behind.

It's a sad story, funny story, and so much more. It definitely made me appreciative of my own childhood.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This was a fascinating memoir! I stayed up until 2:30AM to read it-couldn't put it down. One child was born in to the hippie age in 1970 with a very different family. Reading the book is liking seeing an accident; you can't stop reading or look away. When the author grew up in the wilderness and a very unique lifestyle--she thought it was a normal way of life, until she starting living in the city. The author takes us on a journey that will make you want to cheer that smart little girl on in to the life she wants and eventually receives. This book reminds you of how the human spirit is strong and can persevere among the most trying times even with the love & weirdness of your family. Highly Recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Poor little Cea, born to hippies in the forest, and all she ever wanted was a Barbie doll. Cea's story is really crazy -- what kind of people put their children through stuff like that? But it is also a common story that a lot of us can relate to. Her parents are embarrassing, and she wishes she was some other kind of family, and she wishes for security, and she wishes to fit in. Who hasn't felt like that at some point in their life? Some of us rise above it, and some of us sink below the surface. Cea was the one in her family who rose above the madness, and carved out a good life for herself. Congratulations to Cea on that one, and nice job writing a book about it too.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Where to start?
This is the most amazing and highly captivating and addictive book my hands ever touched!
I consider myself, a below average pace reader (being English is my 2nd language) but this was not the case!!
I couldn't put this book down!
It's just like a good glass of wine & a box of swiss chocolate, it gets better the deeper you look into it! And then the one is calling the other!!!
You get to know Cea, and my goodness, what an amazing person to get to know, and travel with her like your living her past currently.

Not only did I find it so interesting and captivating, but it help me with my crooked past. It was so blissful!!!
The only bad thing I can say, is when there were no more pages to turn... :-)
It should never end!!!!
I wish there was more!!!!!

I highly highly recommend this book!!!
I own it on my iPhone and going to buy a hard copy too.
I just can't get enough!!!

Cea, what a legend!!!!!!!!!
One of your biggest fans!!! (If not the biggest!) - Anné Jurgens
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joanna brucker
The author's clear voice sustains this portrait of her unusual (to say the least) childhood meandering around the Canadian wilderness, both learning from and suffering from her family's deeply entrenched hippie/communal/free love values.

The way that the author, as a child, remembered small kindnesses and was able to separate them from the occasional harshness of her circumstances, was very poignant. It was so rewarding to see her break off and find her own voice.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
james loftus
This was such a well-written book and a total page-turner. I felt for her the entire time. I know how it feels to be raised in a "bizarre" family, to be embarrassed by certain things or people, to live the unconventional outlaw life. This was a fascinating memoir!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
melanie carrier
Thank you for sharing your story! What an amazing journey you have had. You totally transported me back through your childhood with you. God bless you on the rest of your journey. I am glad you have finally found peace.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
memo saad
I was eager to read this book as it sounded very interesting, a true tale of the Hippie era. Cea's story was sad and she had a lonely unsettled childhood. She is obviously very clever to have emerged and able to make a good life and career for herself. So sad she did not own a Barbie or have true little playmates at school and was bullied. Her mother loved her, but was too young and stoned to give her child a proper upbringing.The book held my interest but not overly so. I would rather have borrowed it from the library than have bought it.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
meghna gandhi
This was an interesting but strangely un-compelling memoir about a childhood lived in an extremely unconventional manner. And about extreme's. Going from living in tents in the woods and loving off the land in the aftermath id the free love
aturalist movement is a mind cluck. The story is there bit the voice left me cold.
Please RateA Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood - and How I Survived Both
More information