NORTH OF NORMAL by Cea Sunrise Person


A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both
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A former international model charts her unconventional childhood in the 1960s with a hippie-ish family.

Person begins with the lives of her progressively thinking maternal grandparents, a Korean War veteran and a baker’s daughter who used marijuana to soothe debilitating bouts of depression. That remedy found its way to the author’s mother once the family moved to California. Then, after a failed marriage, the family relocated to a “tumbledown house in a town just over the Canadian border,” where the author was born. Another move to the northern Alberta wilderness in the early 1970s further estranged the group from contemporary civilization; Person and her family gathered berries, laundered clothing in a river and slept in a ramshackle tepee. The author grew up with an appreciation for nature and for her grandfather “Papa Dick,” who expanded their camps to include visiting “free-love-and marijuana-saturated” transients interested in living the same unfettered lifestyle. Further moves to southern British Columbia and beyond with her mother’s new beau, Karl, eventually became stifling for Person as she came of age and preferred reuniting with her birth father to living with her pothead grandparents. While the author predominantly chronicles her eccentric childhood, in the final chapters, she details her independent ascent into the modeling world, where she bravely traversed the competitive fashion markets in Manhattan and Europe at age 15, alone, with barely an acknowledgment from her oblivious mother. Person also soberingly examines the myriad mistakes and struggles in her own adult life (“I cheated on my first husband with seven different men….I had done so much coke and drank so much booze that I had beat the crap out of my boyfriend”), mirroring her dysfunctional upbringing. Personal closure occurred with forgiveness and a rebonding with her mother years before her death.

Written with stylistic clarity and studded with family photos, Person’s lucid memories present a stirring scrapbook.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-228986-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2014


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