________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 12 . . . . February 15, 2002

cover Out of the Fire.

Deborah Froese.
Toronto, ON: Sumach Press, 2001.
282 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-894549-09-0.

Subject Headings:
Burns and scalds-Patients-Juvenile fiction.
Burn care units-Juvenile fiction.
Teenagers and death-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-11 /Ages 12-16.

Review by Joan Marshall.

**** /4


I felt like a scarecrow or Frankenstein's first cousin. But as much as I longed for company, I dreaded the idea of being seen, even by Keith. All I could remember of his first visit was an overwhelming sense of relief to know, to really know, that he was there. But during his next visit -- when I'd been wider awake and more conscious of how awful I looked -- I couldn't meet his eyes, let alone speak.

Part of me had longed to tell Keith about Gram and the light, about seeing myself from that strange, distant place, about the sudden revelation that there was more to life than "here." But another part of me feared he would think I was crazy, like Daddy seemed to, and I had more important things to worry about.

[italics] What does he think of me now that I look so horrible? How long will he put up with an ugly, bedridden girlfriend?[italics].

It is so difficult for teenagers to find a comfortable place in the world where they are accepted and feel useful and empowered. Dayle and Amy are Manitoba high school students struggling with which group to join and how to support each other in friendship. Dayle has fallen in love with Keith and finds herself standing uneasily on the periphery of his group of loud risk-takers who drink and offend others with their careless, racist remarks. Suddenly, everyone's life is changed when Keith and his friend Pete pour gasoline on a bonfire that won't start. Both Pete and Dayle are very badly burned. Although Dayle survives, she must deal with painful physio, morphine induced dreams and becoming reconciled to her disfigured body. To everyone's horror, Pete succumbs to his injuries.

     This excellent novel deals forthrightly with guilt, forgiveness and how our behaviour affects our families and friends. The ache of wrong choices crosses generations as we see Dayle's mother and beloved grandmother realizing that they have made poor choices in the past. Dayle regrets missing her Gram's last hours of life because she was too tired to go to the hospital. Pete dies before she can forgive him although she does spend time with him in the hospital learning how to play chess. As Dayle realizes that her father is only human, not a hero, she sees that his new wife and baby are not the ogres she had imagined. She is finally able to forgive her father for breaking up their family. In the end, she seems to understand her Gram's advice to fall in love with your friend, and the reader expects that in the future she will see how much her friend Stu loves her. Dayle is a sympathetic, well drawn heroine whose suffering and growth keep the reader turning pages. The descriptions of Dayle's horrific burn injuries and her slow recovery are grim and compelling. The sympathetic, yet firm, nurses and therapists are heroes who deal with the horror of burn accidents with tenderness and compassion. This is a powerful, moving process, which finds Dayle rising from the ashes like the Phoenix that Stu carves for her. Perhaps only Manitobans in the middle of a cold winter can understand the longing Dayle's family has for "the lake" and how cottage experiences ground families in what is really important in life: the love and friendship of others. Vivid description brings the lake and cottage alive, making this setting central to the novel. Some of the chapters bear dates which help readers to keep the time line of the story straight. Dayle's thoughts (in italics) clarify her feelings. Her dreams (also in italics) portray her real feelings and help to move the plot along. The ending, with Dayle's finding the strength to encourage Keith to go off to Waterloo and to accept her family as they are, is realistic and satisfying.


Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364