A child of the 1960s, eleven-year-old Beth Brinkmann agonizes over the ruthlessness of “The Blob” as much as she delights in the fascination of Barbie. She lives in the lively little town of Mimosa, Mississippi, where she goes to movies, rides her bicycle, and darts about the neighborhood in the wake of the cloud-spewing mosquito spray truck. Then one summer day her next-door neighbor, Leonie Lunceford, gets a Chatty Cathy and Beth’s life is never the same.
The arrival of the doll, a gift from Leonie’s grandmother, coincides with Leonie’s mother getting sick. When Beth sees Mrs. Lunceford, she is horrified. This enthusiastic piano player and admired neighborhood mother has succumbed to multiple sclerosis which has robbed her of her beauty, speech, and agility. Beth dreads going near her but craves Leonie’s company as well as her newfound lifestyle: expensive toys, the latest fashions, generous grandparents, and an outlandish father who owns three capuchin monkeys. Leonie tells petrifying ghost stories and charms everyone with her smile. She makes good grades and receives the best Valentines, but most important of all, she’s a cheerleader, a status Beth craves more than anything.
As Beth grows older, leaving the familiarity of her little Catholic school and adapting to the public junior high, she is tormented by other fears such as dogs, the neighborhood busybody, and the probability she will never achieve her desire of being “popular.” And though she does not appreciate her own home situation, Beth has devoted parents and a good life. She loves to watch her father take photographs and develop them in his darkroom.
She also has her dad’s moxie. As the relationship between father and daughter deepens, Beth gains insight about her life while providing her dad with crucial insight into his relationship with his father, a most difficult man. She also comes to understand important things about Leonie and others who populate her small-town world. The Dance Between is a poignant return to Mimosa, Mississippi, and a coming-of-age story of realizing true compassion in the face of great difficulty.