An engrossing story of adventure, survival and psychological exploration.
Ollestad hits several notes that should make his memoir irresistible to those looking for page-turning but thought-provoking summer reading along the lines of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (1997). In the winter of 1979, the 11-year-old Ollestad survived a plane crash in which his father and his father’s girlfriend were killed. Alternating with young Norman’s nine-hour trek to safety are scenes from the year preceding the crash, when the boy took a surfing trip with his father through the jungle along Mexico’s Pacific coast. The flashbacks sections are the most fascinating parts of the book, and Ollestad ably captures the contrast between his charismatically cool father, Norman Sr., and his bullying stepfather-to-be, Nick. A photo of the elder Ollestad surfing with his one-year-old son strapped to his back captures the essence of the author’s relationship with Norman Sr. He is convinced that his father’s gentle but unyielding insistence that young Norman develop a sense of mastery over physical, emotional and mental challenges helped him survive the crash. The chapters that follow also suggest that his subtler ordeals with Nick were similarly important in the building of his character. Though some of the minutely detailed descriptions of his journey down the mountain read like creative-writing assignments gone awry, Ollestad presents a captivating account of high-altitude disaster that nicely dovetails with his coming-of-age story in ’70s California.
Deep and resonant.