“Highly touted authors make the most of their debuts”
A Theory of Expanded Love is one of 8 titles showcased in the Debut Fiction ForeSight editorial article Summer Issue. Published on May 18th with bonus distribution at BookExpo America, the annual American Library Association conference and the Beijing International Book Fair.
Caitlin Hicks begins this story of tradition and redemption in the months leading up to Kennedy’s assassination, when all manner of possibilities seemed open to good little Catholic girls. Ensconced in the middle of a noisy Irish family of fifteen and perched at the edge of her teen years, Annie Shea knows that she’s on the cusp of spiritual greatness. She weaves tales of her heavenward ascension for awed classmates, trading on the potential papacy of a family friend and her maybe-vocation as a selfless bride of Christ.
Yet, Annie discovers that even very blessed Catholics are sometimes faced with tribulations. Hers begin with an uncovered and faded photograph of her mother in a wedding gown, standing next to a soldier who is most definitely not her father. Propelled by a thirst for the truth (and maybe even an older, less nettlesome sibling), Annie makes her way through the forbidden channels of family history. When her eldest sister finds herself facing a scandal, Annie alone will be equipped to discern the righteous choice from amongst the many, mostly straight-laced options available.
Hicks adopts Annie’s precocious voice skillfully and draws from it self-effacing humor, spiritual bargaining, and enough charm to fill the corridors of Vatican City twice over. This is an involving tale of religious evolution that reminds us that good faith is what sometimes grows out of defying convention and braving the unknown.
A Theory of Expanded Love, Light Messages Softcover $20.95 (362pp) 978-1-61153-131-2
Kirkus Reviews– March 17, 2015
“The astute observations of a little girl from a big Catholic family living in Pasadena in 1963.
“A middle child in a family of 13 kids, 12-year-old Annie is often a substitute parent for her younger siblings. When her father sends her older sister Clara to a shelter for unwed mothers to give birth in secret, Annie advocates for the unborn baby against her parents’ wishes and against the dogma of the Catholic Church. Annie questions her religion in her diary as she decides for herself the difference between right and wrong, and her prose distills the sweetness of childhood.
The titular Theory of Expanded Love is her way of coping with having so many siblings: “You kind of love them in the background to everything,” she says, but the background noise of a family that size is deafening. Annie rushes to change her little brother’s diaper when her parents leave him alone to cry it out, but no one comes to Annie’s aid when an unseen pair of hands fondles her under the covers in her bedroom at night. If Annie can’t have a direct line to her parents, she hopes to at least have a direct line to God through her family’s friend Cardinal Stefanucci, who is in line to become the next pope. But is God really listening? In a conservative community where prayers go unanswered, sins go unpunished, and secrets never leave the confessional booth, God seems to help those who help themselves.
“Annie’s disarming voice evokes nostalgia for a bygone era and hope for humanity in a weary, modern world.”
April 14, 2015
“This worthy debut has a disarming humor”
Playwright Hicks’s debut novel spans the latter half of 1963. For 12-year-old narrator Annie Shea, that period’s turbulent events—the election of a new pope, the Equal Pay Act, and J.F.K.’s assassination—reflect and shape the changes taking place in her body and soul. Initially she’s willing to lie to bolster her family’s reputation as good Catholics, but she gradually awakens to the hypocrisy in the church and in her family life, in which impressing a visiting priest is more important than tending to a screaming baby in a wet diaper, bragging about the number of children one has is more important than cherishing them, and nightly sexual abuse goes unpunished. When one of her twelve siblings is sent to a convent home for unwed mothers, Annie presses her family to live according to the dubious theory they espouse: that with each new life, there will always be more love to go around. Annie’s insistence on truth telling restores connections and strengthens her own resolve to continue to “say what I see—not just what they want me to see.”
Full review here: http://www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!A-Theory-of-Expanded-Love/cmoa/54df7be00cf23137e865fd64
A W E S O M E “Hilarious and Moving” A Hit!
A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE, is AMAZING, and have never laughed so hard. Judy Blume, Lena Dunham, and Jennifer Weiner move over!
Caitlin Hicks, author, international playwright, and acclaimed performer in British Columbia, plus a long line of credentials, delivers an extraordinary coming-of-age debut novel, A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE.
Readers hear from feisty twelve-year-old narrator, an inquisitive young girl, Annie wise beyond her years, trying to figure out this thing we call “LIFE”. She questions and addresses everything from family, parenting, religion, hypocrisy, authority, politics, justice, morals, sin–and all life throws her way, in the turbulent sixties – with candor and humor!
Annie Shea was born to a Catholic military family of thirteen to the same two parents, in an old house, across the street from a ritzy Protestant girls’ school in Pasadena. She called her family “Holly Rollers” “in an obviously secular society; good, patriotic Catholics who found parking spaces by praying to St. Anthony, who could recite the old Latin Mass by heart, and dutifully learned the modern English version word for word after the Second Vatican Council.” Being the second to the largest family in the parish was not enough, they were the only family in the whole school who fought communism every night by praying the rosary.
It is 1963, the Kennedy Assassination, (6th grade for me, so approx same age); birth control, equal pay, prayer in schools, nuclear bombs, MLK, KKK, Civil Rights, segregation, Beach Boys, Seventeen Magazine, Ed Sullivan Show, Jackie’s pillbox hats, Ford Falcon (our wedding getaway car in the early seventies; divorced after 15 yrs.), two-piece bathing suits, a new pope election, guardian angels, secrets, lies, and getting spanked at age 12-13- devastation.
From secrets, desires, fears, a diary, to changes in her body, which can be disgusting and must be punishment from God (agree), breasts, periods, shaving, (hilarious), questioning life, birth process– (Annie) prays for guidance in this unsure world of sin as she uses her (laugh out loud) prayer book/diary entries to speak to the higher authorities of her daily problems. Had her mom lied, what happened to her first husband and her baby? Is it ok for parents to lie? Do they get a pass?
Annie hoped the Blessed Mother would come to rescue her. “I was counting on it. She had a special mission in life; to intervene on our behalf, to whisper things into God’s ear that would put us into His special favor or remind Him to show a little mercy. God being so perfect, and capital “G” was somehow excused for doing dramatic and frightening things only He could be responsible for– like wars, disease, tidal waves, earthquakes, and having Africans boil little children alive just to prove their loyalty to Him.
“It was easy to see how even God Almighty could get carried away with all that raw power. Clearly He needed someone to hold Him back, so as a practical consideration, He created the gentler Blessed Mother. And we prayed to her just in case we ever found ourselves surrounded by pygmies.”
What really bugs Annie is why babies are left to cry themselves to sleep and why no one cares some boy is slipping in her room at night, trying to fondle her, feeling her up. And why her mom does not take a stand against her dad about her sister, having a baby. No one in the family is supporting her sister. Hello, God?
Dear Blessed Mother, “Here’s the question. Where have you been? I am under siege here. I have found out who has been coming in my room and feeling me up. He actually got out of it! If he comes back, I’ll bite his hands off.”
The next day: “Dear Blessed Mother. “So I guess you’ve decided not to get involved.”
“Dear God the Father. “Who’s left up there? I can’t seem to reach anyone. I need some help here, but I think Jesus and Mary might have gone on vacation.”
Her dad thinks he is right about everything. He likes talking religion and politics but she (Annie) has never heard him apologize to a mortal. He continues to repeat his prayers every day, and to her dad “Thou shalt not kill” means if you murder someone you will be doomed to eternal damnation and hellfire (unless you say you’re sorry before the last second of your life; however, war is Ok if you are on the right side -not the Communist side). Lots of things bug her about her dad, and she is furious over the baby thing. Suppose it had been her instead?
“Dear Diary, Remember me? Oh it’s been a while but I’ve decided to write you again directly. There’s nothing wrong with Jesus and Mary, but it’s pretty hard second-guessing them all the time.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that we have to work things out ourselves and there’s no point to thinking I have a direct line to God, or to the Blessed Mary, any more than anyone else does. I’m just one person in a big family and it’s no different in the world. It’s an enormous place with millions of people, everyone clamoring for something or other.”
How do you describe an insightful and entertaining book of this nature, without giving away a little of its charm?
I do not want this gem to be overlooked, deserving to be read by millions. The credit goes to the author who has a special gift, a rare talent, and speaks from the heart. Thank you for this fabulous story, it made my day- and brought back those memorable (some not so much) days as a young girl –with the burden of life on her shoulder, in a trying time.
If you grew up in the sixties, you are going to love this one. A Hit. If not, you will love Annie, (my hero). She is astute, and speaks her mind. Keeping you entertained for hours with her insights, wisdom, wit, and charm.
BUY IT. Comes out June 12! You can thank me later readers, for the heads up
A note to Caitlin Hicks, Elizabeth Turnbull, and the team at Light Messages “you gals know how to crank out some winners!”
“It’s terrifically funny, well written, entertaining . . .
“In a nutshell: I love the story. The voice is fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed this and had a lot of fun reading it over, three times!
“As a Catholic who grew up in the 60′s and 70′s this spoke to me on many levels and I laughed right out loud on more than one occasion. It was a joy.” – Erin Niumata, VP Folio Lit, New York
Jennifer Karchmer Book journalist & reviewer
“The writing is superb . . should be a NYTimes Best Seller”
This is a wonderful summer read, or frankly, an anytime read. Set in 1963, with historical accuracy to events such as the assassination of JFK, the book is very interesting for Baby Boomers who grew up in this time period. Also for Generation Xers like me, it’s a wonderful story told in first-person from a 12-yr old girl’s perspective and the character’s voice is simultaneously funny, heartbreaking, insightful, and entertaining. Hicks captures the time period, this lovely character and her entire Catholic (more than 10 siblings!) family.
In my opinion, there’s no reason why THEORY shouldn’t be among the top NYTimes Best Selling fiction books out there. The writing is superb, the development of the main character Annie is fantastic, and the historical references are engaging. I was born in the 1970s, grew up in a Jewish family in upstate NY, so, aside from being female, I don’t have much in common with the characters or setting yet couldn’t put it down.
I had the pleasure of meeting the author at the Chanticleer Authors Conference at Hotel Bellwether in Bellingham, WA in April 2016. Looking forward to a sequel or another title from this author.”
Jennifer Karchmer — editor, proofreader, podcast producer & host of “The Whatcom Wordsmith” http://www.jenniferkarchmer.com/podcast.html
Hidden within the context of America’s volatile 1963-1964, A Theory of Expanded Love by Caitlin Hicks is the sort of novel I wish came my way much more often. Annie, the protagonist and narrator is a spunky 12 year old Catholic girl in 1960’s California surviving her gigantic family of 13 kids, tired mother and military father. I think of Annie as a sort of American Anne of Green Gables mixed with The Catcher in the Rye, if Anne weren’t a windswept orphan in PEI. Annie is spunky, doubtful, vigorous, hard working and alive. She is quintessential ‘growing up’ and her quest is both full of mundane and life-altering importance. Her family is vivid, overwhelming & intense. I wanted to re-read it the minute after putting it and my bookmark down. I can’t find a single fault in this novel. It took me through the horror of forced adoption, misogyny and into the exhilaration of hitchhiking, kittens and the realizations of growing up.
I had to lock this book in my car, to stop from reading it at my work desk. Caitlin Hicks is a true and undoubted treasure, both as a performer and as an author. She brought this coming-of-age tale to true and vibrant life. I struggled and rejoiced with Annie, Madkap and Clara. I hated John-the-Blimp and the strict hypocrisy of 1960’s catholic misogyny and the Shea family patriarch.
Every woman should read this book to feel that shared connection of the feminine experience, and every man should read this book to remind them of how far we’ve come and still need to go. Fantastic, Caitlin.