Book Review: South of Normal: My year in paradise by Norm Schriever

South of Normal; my year in paradise
By Norm Schriever
Downloaded free on 6/28/13

Finish time:  1-2 weeks?  This is a long book or maybe I’ve just been exhausted and going to bed earlier and not reading as much at night.  That is not a reflection of this book.  It was a very enjoyable read.  I don’t read memoirs (biographies, true stories?) often, in fact, this may be my first review on this blog of one.  But that is exactly why I chose this book, it’s something different and that is my goal, to stretch my reading away from my usual, comfortable, less-rewarding chick-lit.  (Although I’ve been straying away from a lot of that lately out of embarrassment to admit I read that!)

Meet Norm.  Normal (pun intended) almost 40-year-old dude.  Tired of corporate life in the US, he moves to Tamarindo, Costa Rica.  Another reason I chose this book was because we spent our Honeymoon in Costa Rica in 2007.   Let’s just say I’m glad I read this book after our trip!  Seriously, I may have been a little more aware of my surroundings or just felt more in-the-know learning all I did about the local culture, but would not have changed it and nothing happened to us.  While I felt we over-paid on certain things at times (the tourist rates), I now (6 years later) am comfortable with that!  It seems to be a love-hate with tourism.  On one hand, it’s bringing money into the country (their city), on the other, it disturbed their previous quiet life.  While I would still argue for most it still seems like a life of leisure, people are still scraping by and it’s not a lifestyle I would choose.  But then again I’m a Type A, borderline OCD, accountant!

I can honestly say I was laughing out loud at certain parts.  Like when Norm was daily ordering “pinga” thinking it was pineapple (look that one up!).  Or when he was taken down by 9 terriers and a pig with earrings on the beach.  I really felt like I was sitting at a bar or coffee shop hearing his stories first hand.  His writing is so casual, yet descriptive, that I have a vivid picture in my head of Tamarindo (it also doesn’t hurt that we spent time in a similar town!)  The cast of characters that he encountered daily, is just so absurd, it could only be real.  I found myself invested in what was happening with his friend, Pistol, and rooting for his release.  I also really enjoyed the end where he did a “where are they know” update (as a reader, I did want to know, especially about Bella!)

What I also liked was his discussion and thoughts on certain issues.  One that stands out is around marijuana.  It’s a plant, one of 400k+ plants in the world, yet illegal.  (The reason Pistol was in prison)  But then going a step further to ponder if you get in trouble for something illegal and then that something becomes legal (think pot in CO), is that the justice system (government) admitting they were wrong? Were you wrong in the first place?  Just questions like that really kept my mind engaged in the book and had me thinking long past putting it down.

There is so much more I could mention, but I really did enjoy this book, and it was good to have one that kept me occupied for so long (maybe not for blog content, but for my own personal entertainment!)  Pick it up, you’ll like it.  I did!

One last note, in trying to take things back to MY calling, I really enjoyed meeting Norm and watching him live out his calling.  It may be an unusual one, but that just confirms my belief that God has purpose for all of us, and even a sense of humor.  I wanted to leave you with a paragraph from the last chapter (don’t worry – it won’t spoil the book!)

“What I am doing still makes no logical sense, to me or to anyone around me.  People still look at me funny and question what the hell I’m doing.  I don’t know, exactly, but at least I’m doing something.  You should do the same.  Go on a journey.  Do something that rings true in your heart, even if it doesn’t add up in your mind.  It doesn’t need to be a geographical journey, but a journey toward your dreams.  Take one little step in that direction, that’s all I ask.  OH, but remember to smile, and believe”

Thanks Norm.  I look forward to hearing about your next adventure!

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Good excuse to breakout one of our honeymoon pics from the beach in Costa Rica!

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