Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both” as Want to Read:
North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both

by
4.19  ·  Rating details ·  8,234 ratings  ·  809 reviews
Sex, drugs and . . . bug stew? An utterly compelling tale of survival—of nature, family and genetics

In the late 1960s, riding the crest of the counterculture movement, Cea’s family left a comfortable existence in California to live off the land in northern Alberta. But unlike most commune dwellers of the time, the Persons weren’t trying to build a new society—they wanted
...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by HaperCollins Canada (first published April 21st 2014)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about North of Normal, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Maggiendp I loved this book; have read lots of memoirs and I would rate this as my favourite. If you have already read it, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I…moreI loved this book; have read lots of memoirs and I would rate this as my favourite. If you have already read it, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,234 ratings  ·  809 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both
Dawn
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I knew Cea during her time in the Yukon. I have my own childhood memories of her mother, her grandparents, their bush camp, and of course Cea herself. THIS BOOK NAILS IT. There was a lot that I did not know about her story and learned only from reading the book; there was also a lot that resonated deeply with my own understanding and experience of childhood in and around the counterculture. As moving as this story was on a personal level, it is also an important story that needs ...more
Beverly
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vanessa
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After reading the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls I was hungry for more stories of interesting unconventional styles of living when I stumbled upon this book sitting on the shelves, I grabbed it and noticed I had picked up an uncorrected proof copy not letting that bother me I dug in and what a story! A young girl living with her young mum and her hippy pot smoking Grandparents, two Auties and one Uncle live completely off the grid first in California and then in the Canadian wilderness with no ...more
Raeleen Lemay
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
While it may have taken me a while to get into this book (it took me three days to read the first 60 pages lol) I absolutely flew through most of it yesterday because it was so compelling! Similarly to The Glass Castle, this book tackles the issues of unusual (and in many ways, abusive) parenting, strange and unfit living circumstances, and generally the most dysfunctional family situation you can imagine.

Reading Cea's story was extremely troubling at times, which I appreciated. She really
...more
Amber
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

I had mixed feelings about this family throughout the book. The fault wasn't in the author's retelling of her story, but... I don't know. It made me uncomfortable in ways books don't normally do. I think maybe it was because I saw already in Papa Dick what Cea hadn't seen until she was older.

I find it hard to criticize the "characters" in this "story" because it's a memoir, not figments of Person's mind. I really just disliked the whole hippy outlook
...more
Aile
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this memoir well worth reading on several levels. It was well-written, yes. But the emotional tone and the characters were more novel-like than memoirs usually are, and the story engaged me right at the beginning. I found it hard to put down! It was evocative of the age it described, authentic, and forced mental comparisons to lives I've known others to have led in those years, bringing questions and polemics to the surface to be examined that had long been silent or absent, especially ...more
Lynne Spreen
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Joanne
In her acknowledgements at the back of this book, the author cites Jeannette Walls and The Glass Castle as inspiration. If you loved that book, you will love North of Normal.

In 1970, Cea Sunshine Person was born to a 16-year-old Californian who had moved with her counterculture parents and wildly dysfunctional siblings to the backwoods of western Canada. They lived in the bush, squatting on Indian land and raising pot for additional income. Cea's mother was erratic and passive, wanting only two
...more
Tania
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you loved The Glass Castle, you best add North of Normal to your reading list.

Cea's mom, Michelle, was 16 when she was born, and the whole family decided to go and live in hand-made tee-pees in the wilderness. Her anti-establishment grandfather, Papa Dick, thought the best he could do for his family was to provide them with a pot-smoking, free-loving, clothing-optional lifestyle.

For the first five years of Cea's life this suited her just fine, but as she becomes more aware of the fact that
...more
Sonja Arlow
This is a book that deserves a LOT more attention.

What a memoir! I was completely immersed in her weird hippy upbringing and at times I could even see the benefit of a childhood spent off the grid.

I agree with other reviewers comparing this to The Glass Castle. It’s an unsentimental, laugh out loud and shocking account of a completely unconventional childhood.

Its not only that her grandparents insisted in living in tipi huts in the wild, nor their demand for everyone to do yoga naked or Cea’s
...more
Dianne
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you enjoyed The Glass Castle, you will find this memoir equally astounding. A forest ranger from California moved his wife, four children and a granddaughter north to Canada. He did not work. They settled in the woods and lived an alternative lifestyle which involved drugs, free love and nude yoga. Those were the late 60s/early 70s the years of flower children and draft dodgers. The story is told from the perspective of the granddaughter who has a high level of intelligence. I could not put ...more
Dianne
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What is it that makes a neglected child still raise their arms in hope of being scooped up by a caretaker, even one that has betrayed them? It is this pure, earnest gesture that Cea Sunrise Person has captured in her memoir. The objectivity she conjured as a child gives voice to a sensitive and matter of fact retelling of both a wonderous and terribly raw child hood.

This heartbreakingly resilient little girl somehow navigates a life with a frequently neglectful mother, no friends, no filter,
...more
Christy
4.5 Stars!! I love memoirs about lives completely different than my own, and this one is no exception! This is a story about a dysfunctional and unconventional family. Even though there is elements of certain kinds of abuse, Cea's existence seemed like a mostly happy one -- at least in her eyes as she was a young girl growing up.

Her Grandparent's moved into the Canadian wilderness to escape civilization. Cea's mom was a young teenager at the time. They lived in an environment fueled with drugs
...more
Belle
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you need a book to compare Educated to this is the one. Cea Sunrise Person deserves the attention that Tara Westover has received.
Mike
Aug 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I came across this book (in e-book form) for a good price on BookBub, and decided to give it a try -- mostly because it was described as "a Canadian version of The Glass Castle." I'm giving this book three stars, though it could have easily been four. Three comments:

First of all, it's not as good as The Glass Castle. This is hardly surprising, as Jeannette Walls is a career writer (and an award winning one at that), and Cea Sunrise Person is not. However it was very well, and very entertainingly
...more
D
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating autobiographical story about growing up in a hippie family in the wilds of Western Canada. At times dramatic but usually very funny. The only weaker part comes at the end, when all turns out well. Recommended.
Paige
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was enraptured by this story. It’s amazing what people can endure.
Liza Fireman
I guess that I am very intrigued by true life stories, and especially true life stories of people that come from impossibly tough backgrounds. This one was very well written and very interesting. I want to mention a few more true coming of age stories first: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray and of course all FDLS books, such as Breaking Free: How I Escaped My Father-Warren Jeffs-Polygamy, ...more
Gail Amendt
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating memoir of the author's childhood with her horribly dysfunctional hippy family...her pot smoking, free loving grandparents, her somewhat simple minded teenage mother, and her mentally unstable aunts and uncle. The family moved from California to western Canada shortly before she was born, and lived through harsh Canadian winters in tipis and tents, squatting on public or native land, and living off the land. That she survived this childhood and has created a normal life for ...more
Spider the Doof Warrior
Well this was a rather difficult read. There's nothing in the world that stresses me out more than children being abused books. But I read them anyway! Then stress myself out! It makes no sense! This book is even MORE stressful than The Glass Castle.

But Cea does manage to pull her life together despite it all and even love her mother but it just makes me so angry that her mother let this stuff happen to her. But she in turn was ALSO molested and raped too! So, it's as depressing, difficult book
...more
Rama
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The children of lesser God

This is an absolutely fascinating story of a young woman who grew up in Canadian wilderness with her grandparents and her mother away from civilization. She was born into a counter-culture family that did not believe in traditional lifestyles. She lived in under a canvas tipi where almost anything could and would happen; drugs, alcohol, sex, nudity and carefree living. This was certainly not normal for the young Cea Sunrise Person who had strong desires for a healthy
...more
Allison
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crazy story, reminiscent of The Glass Castle. It's incredible to think about what other people are living while I go about my pretty average life. This is NOT an average story!
Tuck
hippie family moving from bay area to wilds of alberta, told from the youngest daughters pov. compelling and fun and paradigm questioning, and soooo fucked up the law shoulda been involved, n i hate the law.
Ali
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh, this just didn't work out for me.
Once you read an unconventional autobiography, you read 'em all... And I have read a few of those.
This book caught my attention but failed to hold it.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
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
...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
I could not stop reading this book - it was so addictive. It's a memoir about wilderness living from a child's point of view, and while there's freedom and connection with the land, there is also a whole load of weirdness, sex, drugs, severe mental health issues and abuse - to be honest it made me all a bit anxious.

It's not in the slightest self pitying though - I admire Cea's bravery and strength and the memoir that she's put together here.
Victoria
Fascinating story, but shallowly written. The prose lacked depth, though, on the other hand, this made it a more accessible read.
Julie
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
North of Normal is a memoir of a girl growing up first in the wilderness, and I mean the wilderness, and then floating from one temporary residence to another with her stoned and simple minded mother. She is exposed to things a child should not see and expected to take care of herself in many ways. It's a crazy, crazy life she starts out with and I went along for the ride full steam ahead. REally didn't put this book down till I was done. It's the Glass Castle and then some. The thing is, people ...more
Barbara
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? This is truly the best book I have read this year yet. Very descriptive story of a young girl growing up with dysfunctional parents, grandparents and extended family. If you liked "Glass Castle" by Jeanette Walls, you will enjoy this book even more! I have to admit that parts of the book left me totally flabbergasted! So difficult to believe what the author went through! An incredible read, and a book that makes me very grateful for my very normal and happy upbringing.
Ron S
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Former model Clea Sunrise Person writes about growing up off the grid in Alberta and BC, with back to the land grandparents and a stoner hippie mom. A child's perspective in't usually the voice we hear. This book reminded me a bit of Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut. Great YA crossover for a digital generation raised in fear of direct experience and the outdoors.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Size of Everything
  • A House in the Sky
  • Storkbites: A Memoir
  • Killing Mother: A Son's Memoir
  • An Only Child and Her Sister: A Memoir
  • The Girl in the Treehouse: A Memoir
  • Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii
  • Educated
  • From the Ashes
  • Beyond the Trees: A Journey Alone Across Canada's Arctic
  • The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir
  • The River
  • The Polygamist's Daughter
  • Tears of the Silenced
  • Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood
  • The Pale-Faced Lie
  • High Achiever: The Incredible True Story of One Addict's Double Life
  • Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive
See similar books…
179 followers
Author of the bestselling memoirs North of Normal and Nearly Normal. Wife, mom, friend, dream believer.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m defined by what I’ve survived, and I’m not sure if I like that.” 1 likes
“I thought about my mother, who, though she had made her share of mistakes with me, had refused to let her darkest experiences ruin her life. And in that way, her time on earth had perhaps been more successful than my own.” 0 likes
More quotes…