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

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

by Cea Person
  • english-from-canada
  • from-british-columbia
  • memoir

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 to escape civilization altogether. Led by Cea’s grandfather Dick, they lived in a canvas Teepee, grew pot, and hunted and gathered to survive. Living out her grandparents’ dream with her teenage mother, Michelle, young Cea knew little of the world beyond her forest. She spent her summers playing nude in the meadow and her winters snowshoeing behind the grandfather she idolized. Despite fierce storms, food shortages and the occasional drug-and-sex-infused party for visitors, it was a happy existence. For Michelle, however, there was one crucial element missing: a man. When Cea was five, Michelle took her on the road with a new boyfriend. As the trio set upon a series of ill-fated adventures, Cea began to question both her highly unusual world and the hedonistic woman at the centre of it—questions that eventually evolved into an all-consuming search for a more normal life. Finally, in her early teens, Cea realized she would have to make a choice as drastic as the one her grandparents once had made in order to get the life she craved.

From nature child to international model by the age of thirteen, Cea’s astonishing saga is one of long-held family secrets and extreme family dysfunction, all in an incredibly unusual setting. It is also the story of one girl’s deep-seated desire for normality — a desire that enabled her to risk everything, overcome adversity, and achieve her dreams.


Cea Person, author

Cea Person is the author of the bestselling memoirs North of Normal and Nearly Normal: Surviving the Wilderness, My Family and Myself. She has spoken publicly about her unusual life story at numerous events, including TEDx, and also teaches memoir writing. Now a happily married mother of three, Cea supported herself from age 13 to 31 as an international model, working primarily in Europe. She now lives in Vancouver.


  • "North of Normal" contains so many jaw-dropping scenes it makes Jeannette Walls' childhood ("The Glass Castle") look almost conventional. - The Toronto Star Link to review
  • Person navigates…with real grace. Her clear-eyed memoir captures her family’s quest and its collapse without bitterness. - The Boston Globe Link to review

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Westwood Creative Artists



rights sold: Australia-New Zealand (Black Inc. Books), Canada (HarperCollins), US (HarperCollins)

rights available: World

Additional Information

number of pages: 312

publication date: 04/29/2014

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book