The Madonna of the St. Denis Bar-BQ is a true account of a parent-child relationship, beginning with the details of the death of the authorís mother, Belle-Moue, and tracing her history back, chapter by chapter, to her birth some decades earlier. It reads like modern-day fiction, scored with factual information. The theme is universal. Authors from different cultural backgrounds have written about the life and death of a parent: Simone de Beauvoir and Michael Ignatieff, among others, have recounted the mother-to-daughter, mother-to-son legacy. The setting for the book, originally entitled Belle-Moue, is regional: it is the life story of a QuÈbÈcoise, in la belle province, from 1988 back to 1909. The plot includes a distinct dimension ó the veritable influence of religion and government on 20th century French Canada and on women in particular ó a subject about which Huguette OíNeil writes with convincing authority. An award-winning author, she is also a journalist and served as Director of Information for the Quebec Council on the Status of Women. The Madonna of the St. Denis Bar-B-Q was originally published by Triptyque under the title Belle-Moue. The book won both the Prix Gaston-Gouin and the prix Juge-Lemay, and has been translated by Suzanne OíConnor.
ìIn a book with a few pages, Huguette OíNeil packs a wallop, delving into the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, the sociopolitical climate of Quebec, and bares her own soul in the process.... She exposes her mother with all her warts and makes no attempt to hide her own feelings of guilt, and at times annoyance, with her mother, striking a chord that resonates with every reader.î
ó Sharon McCully, The Record, 2004
ìBy contrasting her motherís powerlessness with her own political activism, OíNeil reflects on the social changes that have enabled her to believe in the possibility of modifying the course of womenís destiny. In a series of emotionally charged passages that sporadically disrupt her otherwise dispassionate narrative, OíNeil forgives her mother for her submissiveness and recognizes the extent to which the latterís unconditional love was fundamental to hwer own sense of self-worth. î ó U of T Quarterly, Winter 2006 ìOíNeil manages to explore the ravages of her motherís life with wisdom and tenderness....î ó Joan Cadham, Montreal Review of Books, 2004