Out of Focus - Margaret Buffie

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The fiction novel Out Of Focus by Margaret Buffie is an old, true sounding story about a teenager named Bernie Dodd with extra burdens, including looking after her younger siblings because their single mother is an irresponsible alcoholic. When Bernie was thirteen, she told her mother, “When you stop being drunk, I’ll call you Mom” (Buffie, 29). She is sixteen now, and still calls her mom Celia. Things started to look up for Bernie and her younger siblings Ally and Jojo; Celia is marrying Mario, who loves kids and is genuinely a nice guy. They’ll have a house instead of a roach-infected apartment; Ally won’t have to worry about the bully down the hall, there will be groceries in the fridge, and maybe Celia will sober up. The morning of the wedding Bernie finds that Celia has called the whole thing off. There are three priorities in Bernie’s life: looking out for her younger brother and sister, her love of photography and Celia’s alcoholism, no matter how many times she promises that she will be sober. Calling off the whole wedding is just one thing to add to a long list of disappointments. Bernie is disgusted that her mother can’t kick her alcoholism. Bernie comes up with a plan to get her mother out of the city, giving them all a chance to start a new life. When she finds out that her mother has inherited Black Spruce Lodge, a former guest lodge on a lake in Ontario, from an aunt Bernie’s never heard of, she demanded her mother take them there to start a new life, with a threat to call Social services and have her children taken away from her if she refuses to move there. The place is in ruins, but so are their lives; Bernie insists they work hard to fix the place up so they can live there, making a living by running a store for the summer visitors. This plan begins to work out, with help of friendly neighbours who adored Charlotte, their aunt. Bernie’s world begins to gradually change. Her mother begins to get her life under control, staying away from alcohol,...
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