Set in a remote Acadian village on Cape Breton Island in the 1950s, the story is narrated by Mari-Jen Delene and follows her from age 5 to adulthood. Mari-Jen and her twin brothers are their mother Adele's mortal sins: all are illegitimate and from two different fathers. Mother Superior tells Mari-Jen that illegitimate children can never enter heaven, but must remain in limbo. At school, Mari-Jen's learning disability earns her the label 'retarded,' and she withdraws into another limbo, that of silence.
Around Mari-Jen revolves a cast of brilliantly drawn characters: her mother Adele, whose 'sins' now have voices and needs and souls of their own; Misha, a Polish Jew, who landed at Pier 21 in Halifax in 1947 and settled in Cape Breton and whom the villagers refer to as the DP and the twins christened Daniel Peter because they thought his mother couldn't spell; a willful and bitter Mother Superior who teaches lessons that are painfully remembered; twin brothers Alfred and Albert, powerfully intelligent, who sleep beside a stolen map of the world that they burn to explore.
Brilliantly imagined, inhabited by a cast of unforgettable characters, leavened with humour, and buoyed by the clear-eyed perceptions of innocence, Butterflies Dance in the Dark is an eloquent story, profound and lyrical, which signals the coming of a gifted writer.
?MacNeil's characters are imaginative and well realized, while the novel makes an effortless full circle.? — Publishers Weekly
PRAISE FOR BEATRICE MACNEIL:
?Beatrice MacNeil's writing resembles painting, a beautifully textured, wondrously detailed painting, of absorbing incidents and characters so real and fresh that you feel you could turn a corner and bump into them in the midst of a quarrel, a cursing, a prayer, a kiss?.MacNeil's Cape Breton is a seductive, mysterious, pastoral, strange, Gothic, and violent redoubt of illicit lusts and proud blasphemies, magical faith and redemptive love.?--George Elliot Clarke