The Madonna of the St Denis Bar-BQ


95 pages
ISBN 0-919688-93-4
DDC C843'.54





Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto-based broadcaster and public-relations


This is a most disturbing book from start to finish. Not only is it a
raw, no-holds-barred exposé of a mother–daughter relationship, it is
also an emotionally draining review of the life of an uneducated
working-class “Québécoise” from her death in 1988 to her birth in

O’Neil, an award-winning author/journalist and former director of
information for the Quebec Council on the Status of Women, recalls her
mother’s seemingly complex attitudes and values throughout her
difficult life in a series of sometimes brutal vignettes. It is a
daughter’s attempt to rationalize and understand what was always an
unsatisfactory and trying relationship. The deeper she delves into her
mother’s background, the more aware she becomes of the societal,
cultural, and religious influences that shaped her mother’s actions,
personality, and character. As she unravels the past, she comes to terms
with the lifetime of conflict, hostility, and impatience she felt toward
her mother.

In reviewing her feelings and guilt through her mother’s past,
O’Neil also exposes the strong holds of the government and the church
on 20th-century French Canadians in general and on French-Canadian women
in particular. She concludes that “[t]he psychological dominance by
the clergy over this small, intellectually underdeveloped people was
such that it gave rise to an abuse of power where dishonesty, trickery
and deceit were carried out in the name of the Lord.”

Despite a somewhat literal translation from the French, this is an
extremely moving and thought-provoking work that pinpoints and defines
the many variables inherent in a parent–child relationship, as well as
the important role played by societal changes in its development. It is
a short book, but it is crammed with large concepts and much emotion
that remain with the reader long after its reading. A provocative and
difficult-to-forget work.


O'Neil, Huguette., “The Madonna of the St Denis Bar-BQ,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024,