Barbara Stark Nemon
“Absolutely wonderful book! Great read!”
To quote the author Caitlin Hicks, “It is my belief that writing can connect us to each other deeply; it celebrates our individuality as well as the richness of our diversity. As a species we learn through art in the most profound way; the exploration is always thrilling and full of surprises.” Hicks might well have been describing the experience the reader has when immersed in her debut novel, A Theory of Expanded Love. Annie Shea narrates her experience coming of age in her big messy devout Catholic family. Any child of the 1960s will recognize how Annie’s upbringing both traps and protects her as the world outside careens into a new age. Hicks’ fine writing depicts with equal skill tiny moments of pre-adolescent sensibility, the pain of family dynamics, and a child’s growing awareness of the broader adult and societal influences that will change Annie’s world forever. Told with humor and innocent pathos, A Theory of Expanded Love is a treasure.
Barbara Stark-Nemon, author
Even in Darkness
“Lovable, incisive, scalding, wonderfully interpretive – really terrific!”
“Does the reader need to be one of thirteen children of a near-destructively religious family in post WWII America to get lost in the trance of the period reality that Caitlin Hicks conjures in her coming-of-age tour-de-force? The answer is irrelevant to the pleasure and horror of consuming this book (that’s what you will do – consume it, inhale it, ingest it). In the same way that you don’t have to be a Huck Finn (or a Jim) to be immersed in Mark Twain’s recounting of Huck’s “Adventures”, you don’t have to be penitent Clare for Hicks to make you cry for the injustice of Clare’s fate. Or to be Jude, to share his infantile discoveries, or Madcap, to be swept away by romantic passion, or Mrs. Shea, to bury her doubts over misguided motherhood in order to keep the marital and familial peace.
“Hicks leads you into and guides you through the story by means of the eyes and mind of Annie Shea, a pre-teen torch in a family of torches. Some of the Sheas may disguise themselves as votive candles in their slow moments, but they are all torches when the fuel is poured on. And there is a great deal of fuel, indeed.
“Yet, in the end, it is not Annie’s eyes, or brain or mouth that brings her story over the finish line with grace and power and love . . . it is her heart. Hicks bares Annie’s heart again and again and again and in doing so, the reader’s as well. . . It’s fucking BRILLIANT!”
– Lance Mason, writer, author, Health Professional , Santa Barbara
Laurie McConnell – bigpacific.com
“an unforgettable heroine” “a gem of a read”
“I’ve postponed writing this review a number of times, wanting to wait until I had a solid window of time with which to do it justice. Hence, weeks have passed since I read it all in one delighted go, and I’ve decided my dallying means I’m keeping others from discovering a gem of a read.
“The book’s protagonist, Annie Shea, was ready-made-to-love for me, sharing many of the characteristics of other Annes and Annies in my life, primarily a headstrong and irreverent attitude I find utterly exasperating and captivating at the same time.
“A Theory of Expanded Love is a rambling and conversational look at an Irish-Catholic family, the Sheas, set square in the middle of the 60s. Annie, our narrator, is a sweetly skeptical observer whose mind relentlessly catches on the hypocrisies and oddities of life in a religious household and within the greater Church.
“The book reads like an epic swashbuckling adventure in suburbia. A family connection to a local Cardinal shortlisted to become pope is to Annie as John Lennon is to her peers; a rock star among ‘Fathers’, lending splendidly to name-dropping and grandeur-by-association that begins harmlessly enough as Annie schemes to raise her standing among 12 siblings and a pious peer group inclined to exclude her.
“Of course, in every catholic household of memory in my world, dark secrets swirl and eddy between sanctimonious and self-flagellating visits to confession. Annie’s family is no different, and this is where the tension in the story emerges, when Annie’s juvenile fame-by-association contortions bump up against growing guilt and awareness of ethics & morals existing outside of the church.
“Annie becomes aware of an undercurrent of a more malevolent hypocrisy within her own family and is forced to encounter herself in relation to the traditions and strictures in which she has grown up, and must make a choice: what kind of person she will be and the kind of life she will inhabit.
“Her unique take on the world, her impudence and fearlessness, her eccentricities conspire to create an unforgettable heroine I still miss more than a month after reading the book.
“So here’s hoping for a series with our heroine – I would love to know how she matures as a woman in the 70s and 80s and would delight in her profane insights into the catholic church within her family and the outside world. Well done!
-Laurie McConnell, webmaster, Big Pacific.com, Sechelt, B. C.
Laurie McConnell’s review first posted here:
Lolly de Jonge
“Hard to put down”
“Exquisite, spellbinding and lyrical”
“An inspiring must-read”
The main character, Annie Shea, is endearing and relatable in many ways not just because of her teenage angst. More importantly, in a most exquisite way, Hicks takes us through Annie’s journey which is the same one that many of us take when we are coming of age or transitioning through any important milestone in life. Annie’s quest for the Truth, grappling with secrets, and persistence in claiming her voice and using it all remind us of common struggles that we face as humans. We then get to experience Annie surmounting these challenges when her focus rises beyond herself to come to terms with her inner demons and to serve others. In this, we are reminded about the importance of loyalty, compassion and commitment to those who are most important to us.
The themes in A Theory of Expanded Love are universal and the story is captivating. I laughed out loud. I cried. My heart was warmed. My life was changed. I recommend A Theory of Expanded Love without hesitation or reservation. It’s an inspiring must-read and I’m excited to see where this takes Caitlin Hicks. -Dr. Lolly de Jonge, Calgary, AB
Review also on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1207450580?book_show_action=true&page=1
“Je suis Annie”
“All the betrayals — the tiny and the monstrous – that define the coming-of-age narrative have come together in Caitlin Hicks’ latest work, “A Theory of Expanding Love.”
I took on this review as I take on many projects – an impulsive response that the next morning seemed more chore than delight, but five pages into the story I was enraptured. “Yes, I will drink this Koolaid. I will love its crisp, dewy sadness, and be the better for it.”
Hicks distills God, love, politics and family to their essence through the eyes and ears of Annie, the insouciant centrepiece of an early 60s fleet of Catholic navy brats. Yes, I’m a middle-aged, male atheist, but Hicks made me feel for a time that, “Je suis Annie.”
To be clear, Expanded Love is not a Young Adult novel. Its narrator might be twelve, but the doubts and pain and resolutions Hicks explores through Annie’s voice speak carefully, fluently and deeply to those of us all.
You will read this book. If not now, you’ll be tempted next year by the awards it garners; if not then, its movie adaptation will finally woo you in 2017” (less).
- Gord Smedley, Writer, journalist, Garden Bay, B.C.
Ben Ged Low
“I often have trouble with the ‘reflective’ woman’s novel (the great vast plethora of Margarets out there), all description, and pain, and impotence. . .
“I’d say this definitely-not-a-Margaret!
“Caitlin Hicks is one terrific writer.
“The book is exquisite. Haunting. And in the most perfect way–with a deftly humorous touch, so light, and yet so sharp. A unique voice (soooooo rare). And you do have SUCH a wonderful voice. For me you blow the whole Toronto crowd of pretenders out of the water.
“And continuity of style all the way through? Impeccable.
“And the story?
“What a story.
“I’m a fan forever.” –
Ben Low, Newfoundland via Montreal
“My favorite book so far this year”
“Caitlin Hicks has turned out a delicately nuanced story told from the perspective of one feisty, smart, lovable little girl. As a Southern Baptist who believed that all Catholics were bound for hell, I was delighted with the Catholic counterpoint of myself–Annie begins her story with the hope that people who recently died were Catholic so they could get into heaven. I loved this book, loved the protagonist, loved the crazy family Hicks has created. What a triumph for this first novel!
“I just finished (A Theory of) Expanded Love, and thought it was just WONDERFUL!!! My favorite book so far this year, and probably will be for the whole year. I know it will do well. Congratulations!”
Deborah Hining, Writer, A Sinner in Paradise
*IndieFab Book of the Year Bronze Award Winner * Benjamin Franklin Awards Silver Medal Winner
Review can be seen here on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1218374198?book_show_action=true&page=1
“I love your book The Theory of Expanded Love. I found the juxtaposition of the dysfunction within the family and the church fascinating; more so because despite the dysfunction, the physical and spiritual family were resilient and life affirming. That Annie suffers from the rigidity and chaos of her upbringing and benefits from the love and life training she receives is a conundrum many readers like myself will identify with. Our parents aren’t perfect, sometimes to a criminal fault, but when we come to accept their love, as Annie does, we are equipped to go out in the world and make our own mistakes instead of repeating theirs.
“Your language is lively and descriptions engaging enough to make me want to find my way to the Shea’s bathroom to wash my hands regularly! . . . It is difficult to deal with a cast of characters as large as this one, but you do it masterfully. Once I got into the story, I could not put it down. . . The end was brilliant.”
“It is difficult to deal with a cast of characters as large as this one, but you do it masterfully. I especially liked baby Jude and his interaction with the family, and the kitty Bitty. Watching kittens be born was mandatory curriculum in my house too!
“You deal well with some tough issues. I love that Annie “outed” her brother in a way that made him stop but did not cause an irreparable rend in the family. At the same time, you acknowledge the lasting damage this kind of abuse causes individuals and relationships.
“On a personal note, I found this story compelling because it gives insight into the issue of Catholic guilt that we Protestants hear about but often don’t understand. Certainly no one escapes a Catholic upbringing without knowing they are a sinner. Essential to know. You show readers the damaging effect of knowing your guilt without knowing God’s grace.
“It is so heartbreaking when Annie feels her prayers have gone unanswered. We are left to wonder if she will abandon her faith, as many Catholics do, or mature in faith and come to realize that a loving God worked things for the good of the Sheas.
“The end was brilliant!” -Sydney Avey, Writer www.sydneyavey.com
See Sydney’s final review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1224927515?book_show_action=false&page=1
Ever wonder what it would be like to grow up in a large family? Caitlin Hicks captures the chaos and hardscrabble efforts of the thirteen Shea children to secure attention when needed and resist damaging assaults on privacy. And who better to tell the story than spunky 12-year-old Annie in the throes of puberty?
Annie suffers from rigid parenting, benign neglect, and a ritual-bound religious practice that defines the family. At the same time, she benefits from the give-and-take kind of love and life training she receives from her parents and siblings. A bossy little ball of outrage toward misguided authority, Annie displays a selfishness typical of children, but also compassion and empathy beyond her years for all but the nastiest of her siblings.
“A Theory of Expanded Love” addresses the pain of adolescence with humor. The story is affective, deeply moral, and life-affirming. For all their faults, Annie’s family and her church have equipped her to make courageous decisions. The world needs more people, like Annie, who call on those they love to be their better selves.
George Donald Maloney
“I literally could not put this book down (but had to now and then over two days.). A coming of age story of young girl of the early 1960’s in a large rambling and strictly Catholic family. Caitlin Hicks writes with great humor, honesty and compassion about her siblings, parents, rivals and enemies. Can’t wait for the next installment about her teen and early adult years. A winner.”
G Donald Maloney – Review on Amazon.com
In Caitlin Hicks coming-of-age debut novel, A Theory of Expanded Love, 12 year-old Annie Shea narrates her struggles, both spiritual and existential, in an increasingly mystifying world. Annie, smack in the middle of a horde of thirteen children, feels all but invisible inside her overwhelmingly pious, 1963 saint-obsessed Catholic family. The story, opening with the death of Pope John XXIII, and the subsequent short-listing of family friend, Cardinal Stefanucci as the possible future Pontiff, throws Annie into a frenzy of self-aggrandizing lying in an effort to elevate the status of her family within her close-knit community. Finally and deservedly the Shea family, even though they’re one offspring short, may have a chance to surpass the Feeneys for the highest rank of holy roller in their Pasadena Parish. Each chapter opens with an entry in Annie’s diary, placing the reader not only squarely inside her innermost musings and predicaments, but inside the tumultuous zeitgeist of the 60s as well. But along with her introspection comes its evil twin – guilt, and Annie is not immune. When she changes her mind about becoming a nun and Cardinal Stefanucci loses his bid at becoming the next Pope, Annie is convinced it’s all her fault because she hasn’t been truthful. The heavenly hierarchy, forever watching and judging, has seen through her scheming and lies. When her oldest sister is shipped off to a ‘retreat’ in the middle of the night, Annie’s world is turned upside down. And what about that old photograph of her mother with a different husband and what looks like a dead child in her arms?
Growing up in in a messy brood of devout Catholics in the 60s might not be an especially harmonious experience but it certainly makes for entertaining reading. Although I occasionally felt I might be losing the thread of the over-all story during Annie’s asides describing the chaos in which she lives, I nevertheless felt compelled to read on. In fact, I couldn’t put it down.
Will Annie break the bonds with which her strict religion (and father) shackle her? Will she kick her demons to the curb once and for all? Does Annie finally ‘get it’? I’m not telling.
Inge Trueman – Review on Amazon.com
“I had to keep reading and hated for it to be over! Your book is wonderful.. A great story, beautifully written.” –
The Theory of Expanded Love considers all the great themes of life and death, who we are and where we fit or don’t, human greatness and human pettiness, God and religion, abandonment and reclamation, love and hate and in-between, lust and desire and sexual abuse… all from the point of view of 12, nearly thirteen, year old Annie Shea, number 6 in a family of 13! kids.! !
Many of us will remember 1963 as the year Kennedy was assassinated. Few of us will remember or know what it was like living those months before and after that event. What was the society of that time? What was it like to grow up in an enormous, practising Catholic family with all the rules and rigidity and competition for privilege, social standing, and righteousness? What was it like to risk your eternal soul to stand up for what you believe in … to stand up for love?! ! Annie Shea lets us into that world, lets us live those days in full Technicolor, rich and detailed. Annie lets us experience the confusion as real life thoughts and feelings struggle for understanding, as theory is tested against what really happened, as innocence is nearly but never really lost.
This story is funny. This story is a great read. This story is an eloquent life lesson. The theory of expanded love is proven.
–Lynn Chapman, Environmental activist, Sechelt, B.C.
I’ve often contemplated writing a book about my upbringing in a large Catholic family. But thanks to Caitlin Hicks, it is done … by a contemporary more creatively honed to clarify, inspire and captivate via the written word.
I love Annie. She is easy to identify with. Her thoughts, challenges and questionings were so similar to mine as a girl growing up enveloped in a paradigm of fantastical religious belief and expectation. God’s representatives on earth: parents and authority figures in the church were often confusingly flawed in their perception of the truth. In reading Annie’s journey, delightfully portrayed in the pages of this book, I felt urged to support every young church-going woman I know, by gifting her this book. It offers a charged and delightful story of a feisty young girl learning to separate the wheat from the chaff.
This everyday heroine, with her strong, indomitable soul and loving heart, navigates a way through unacceptable dogma and it’s by-product, domination, reaching deep inside to discover the truth of her own being. On the way, she opens the door for her sister and mother to choose love over fear of consequences. The work of a true spiritual warrior. a theme of mythological proportions simply and neatly packaged in the story of a child learning to listen to her own internal compass amid the chaos and controlling factors of a large family.
An easy, funny, heart-warming read for all those resonating with the soul’s journey.
–Catherine Cote , Cedar City, Utah – Review on Amazon.com
“Loved every minute of the book”
Through Facebook, I came upon a request to review a book and am proud to say that Caitlin Hicks http://www.caitlinhicks.com/wordpress/the-theory-of-expanded-love/ is a wonderful author amongst other things she does.
The novel, “A Theory of Expanded Love”, is brilliant. Caitlin Hicks’ writing clearly paints pictures to the imagination as one is reading. The periodic timeline of events and Catholic culture are great assets, as is the challenge Annie faces, of going against her parents, for what she truly believes to be the right thing to do. Loved every minute of the book and was sad to see it end. This novel will make a great movie.
-Angie Gursche, reader, North Vancouver
“having just finished the book, I feel like I better understand about a billion more people on earth”“Hicks takes the reader into the special world of a devout California Catholic family. But wait! Don’t go! This novel is driven by the first-person narrator known as Annie, a sassy and smart 12 year-old upon whose flat chest (she’s the one complaining about ityou want to pin a medal for being so damned perceptive and belligerent and especially for deploying so many crack Saxon verbs that make you sit up and say, Whoa!—this chick is going to cut through life’s smog and get noticed, if her father doesn’t smack her senseless, which he tries to do, but to him I say, Good luck. Wow, having just finished the book, I feel like I better understand about a billion more people on earth.
“Hicks has created a story rife with domestic tension, and although not all the promises of disaster pay off, there are myriad that do. Hicks brings us real life, and by that I mean the human condition, and by that I mean characters struggling to be free. Problem is, each character is on a different trajectory to find this freedom, and if that doesn’t make for good drama, I don’t know what does.
“Hicks sets her story in the era of the Pope John’s death and the Kennedy Assassination. We all know what we were doing then and what we felt like and how innocent we were, and how deluded and naïve we were, and helpless and rebellious and fed up with authority, which pretty much puts us in Annie’s skin. So, is this a young adult novel? It deserves to sell well as YA or adult fiction. Any book with a protagonist whose antics are seared into a reader’s memory is going to be enjoyed by many.
“Do yourself a favour and buy this book.”
- PJ Reece, writer, author, adventurer www.pjreece.ca
Original review first posted on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1182729506?book_show_action=false&page=1
I love it!! Simultaneously fascinating and heartbreaking. “My heart took a beautiful journey with Annie who tells her story of growing up in a large Catholic family. Annie repeatedly reveals the hypocrisies surrounding religion, faith, love, and human actions in her raw and honest story-telling. Annie is curious, hilarious, tender, and Naval Brass strong as she forges ahead to reconcile a confusing world – often contrasted by strict military and religious rules against the natural laws of the human heart. Annie’s story is familiar – fascinating and heartbreaking – and we are reminded of important life lessons – and that love triumphs in the end!”
-Julia Chester, Assistant Professor, Psychological Sciences, West Lafayette, Indiana
“Funny and poignant, this unflinching take on growing up Catholic in a ramshackle oversized military family in 1963 Pasadena will have you laughing, gnashing your teeth and shouting “Huzzah!” -JoAnne Bennison, author, writer, Gibsons, B.C.
Review on Amazon.com
Elizabeth Hein “Empathy and humor . . .”
Twelve year old Annie’s life is dominated by her Catholicism. She is number six of thirteen children and obsessed with how the election of the next pope could push her family into the spot of ‘best Catholic family’ in the parish. She even toys with the idea of becoming a nun to help their candidate gain favor. In this coming of age story, we peek into what it truly means to be part of a big family filled with people all struggling to do the right thing. At this pivotal time in Annie’s young life, she identifies herself in relationship to a patriarchy, be it the Catholic Church or the house ruled by her iron-fisted, ex-Navy father.
Set against the world events of 1963, A Theory of Expanded Love is the story of how Annie finds the strength to defy the patriarchy that defines her life and follow her own moral compass. Although she seemed caught up in the rules and outer trappings of her Catholicism, she’d been listening during Mass. When someone she loves needs her, she acts on her convictions with compassion and love.
Caitlin Hicks captures the inner workings of a twelve-year-old’s mind with empathy and humor. Annie is learning about the world, yet still has many questions about how the world of adults works. She is at the age where she is beginning to see her parents as fallible individuals that deserve forgiveness for their mistakes. Annie is wise beyond her years yet retains a child’s sense of optimism. -Elizabeth Hein, writer, author, http://elizabethhein.com/
1ST 5 star review on Goodreads
Nancy Cottingham Powell
A Theory of Expanded Love resonated with me on so many levels. As a child of the sixties and a navy brat, so many of Annie’s anecdotes covered familiar territory, bringing back memories of bygone years. On the other hand, it was interesting to learn about Annie’s life in a large family and the perspective of a Catholic upbringing, very different from my own. But what kept me looking forward to returning to the pages of Caitlin Hick’s book was Annie’s insights she shared with the reader about her journey as a young woman, shedding the perspective of her parents and finding her own voice in the world. I admired her for her fortitude to stand up to a domineering parent and live by what was true for her, despite her doubts and inner conflicts. Taking ownership of our lives is something we all face at one point and Annie set a fine example of burgeoning independence. Hicks’ voice was clear and lyrical; I very much enjoyed my time spent with Annie and her family. I hope Hicks continues the story, shows us where Annie takes her life. I highly recommend this insightful, coming of age story.
Nancy Cottingham Powell, email@example.com
Dana Caple Smith
I just loved this book. Its the right fit for everyone; ages 12 to 80. I didn’t want it to end, and literally nursed it (no pun intended) for as long as possible! It is sweet, exquisite, poignant, sad, happy, exciting ~ all those emotions that happen in a big family at a tender age. The big bonus for me? it wasn’t violent, or sexualized, as so many/much of the media is/does things these days. And yet the story creates a sense of excitement and connection that was great to be wrapped in. Would make a great movie ~ ! Big thank you for quality with heart!
Dana Caple Smith – Review on Amazon.ca
“I inhaled your book. . . and found it compelling – so antithetical to my own upbringing. It captivated me – with my crazy busy schedule, 30+ roses to prune & raised beds to amend, housemate interviews, midwifery clients, a training manual collaboration, my granddaughter, etc, etc,
I read it in a couple of days. I was intrigued, following Annie’s logic, trying to make sense of the inconsistencies she was being spoon fed. I appreciated the blessed innocence of a young child trying to find some order in the chaos of her family, the hypocrisy & tyranny in her home. Her valiant efforts at helping her siblings, and, at long last, her resilience and resourcefulness, standing up to her parents. Such a different upbringing from mine in a middle class reformed Jewish family with 2 kids, my dad, an attorney, my nana, a family practice physician. Thank you for sharing your book with me.
-Constance Miles, midwife, grandmother, Sebastapol, California
I was in tears last night busting a gut. Seriously. Spitting vegetables into your milk?!
Just wanted to send a quick note telling you I am absolutely enjoying your book. You are hilarious!
By the way, have you ever read A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving? It is one of my all-time favorite novels and it, too, centers around faith and youth. You should have a read. I think you would enjoy it as your book reminds me of it.
I can’t believe you called Africans pygmys. Oh my lord. That nearly sent me over the edge.
What a riot.
Loving this and very happy to be reading your creation,
-Heidi Ferber, Kamloops, British Columbia
“wonderful, provoking and heart-felt. . .”
“deserves to be a best seller for the young reader”
“the ending is fabulous – profoundly meaningful”
“Caitlin Hicks’ book: A Theory of Expanded Love, is exactly that—an exploration of how expansive our love can be and in how it changes our lives. It’s a coming of age story that is just as relevant today as in one’s youth, and deserves to be a best seller for the young reader. In fact, I wish I could have read this book in my teens; it would have answered a lot of questions. Like the main character, Annie, I was a curious child with the desire to unearth secrets and understand the why of rules—rules that didn’t make sense to me. Furthermore, I broke the rules, got into trouble and discovered myself in the process, which Hicks explores so aptly in this large-family drama where conformity dominates and ensuing freedom unfolds. The ending is fabulous—it turns everything around and makes the story profoundly meaningful, giving credence to the far-reaching scope of unfettered love.”
-Linda L. Nardelli, Integrated Counsellor, Writer and Artist, Langdale, B.C.
“enjoyable from beginning to end . . . I love Annie for who she is”
“A Theory of Expanded Love is a work of fiction and the author, Caitlin Hicks draws from her life’s experiences and her imagination for the creation of the characters and incidences portrayed in this book. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of a 12 year old girl named Annie.
The year is 1963. Annie comes of age and starts to question not only her family’s religious faith but also her parent’s authority. She struggles between her dreams coupled with visions of grandeur and her father’s wishes and expectations. Born the 6th child of 13, the family dynamics are sometimes uncomfortable and she finds herself caught in chaotic situations. This is heightened when she learns some unraveling news about family secrets that force her to challenge the family model. Life’s lesson of unfairness helps to fuel her questioning and reasoning. Annie is willful, feisty and sometimes disobedient but she has a good sense of family values. Each chapter begins with a snippet from her diary.
The historical events for 1963 are accurate and this story depicts the very essence of a big Catholic family’s way of life and their belief system during this period of time.
I relate to Annie’s toil in life as I had a similar Catholic family upbringing.
I am disappointed the story ends at that point in her life because it leaves me wanting to know what the next chapter in Annie’s life is and so I await for the author’s follow up book. I find this book easy to read and the style and language gives it credibility. The story is enjoyable from beginning to end and all the while I love Annie for who she is. The ease in which the author is able to include so many characters without confusing the reader is a testament of her writing ability. The story flows seamlessly. It is in every way a true to life experience worth reading.”
– Yvette Fleming, Sechelt, B.C.
“made me laugh out loud as well as giggles and tears”
“I enjoyed reading “A Theory of Expanded Love,” by Caitlin Hicks. I am not a reader, because it is hard to find books that paint a picture in my mind so I stay interested. It created an excitement that lead me to read it quickly so I could find out what happened to the characters in the next chapter. I personally related in more ways than one because, I am from a big family and no one I know, other than brothers or sisters, understands the dynamics of a large family. It is a fictional book, it reminded me of my own family in those times, the good and the sad. The writer knows how to create images that made me laugh out loud as well as giggles and tears. My thought is that you really can love more as you open your heart to love. There is room for everyone.” -Crissy Fowler, Mother, Grandmother, Northern California
This review On Goodreads:
“The book is awesome. Totally unpredictable, I literally had NO idea what was going to happen. I adore Annie. I tore through it at warp speed because I just had to know. Then I read it again slower so I wouldn’t miss anything.
You know the 2 parts I can’t get out of my mind? Changing the poor baby’s diaper with his red, raw little bottom. I hate thinking of babies left alone to cry for hours, but that one scene of compassion just about knocked me out. Very understated, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
And then when Dominic was found at Disneyland and while the Dad was yelling at him, the mom swooped in and held him and said they’d never leave him….which of course they already had….and that none of the kids were at all jealous when he got the super hotdogs…..why does that one wring my heart so much? The idea that growing up in an atmosphere of cutthroat competition (the starving puppies climbing all over each other desperate for the teats), the small acts of meanness and unfairness….and YET – the solidarity of the relief and compassion when (spoiler alert!) . . .. I love that part.
I love the book, I love Annie, I love the humor and the quirky thoughts and insights she has.
You did a wonderful job with this book and I’m sure it’s going to be a big hit.
Loved it! Loved it!
– Aggie Sanders, former oncology nurse, Mother, Grandmother, Baltimore, Maryland
Review by Julia Osborne 6 April 2015
I received my copy of The Theory of Expanded Love in a mail a couple of days ago. I have finished reading it already, which says something. As I continued to read, the story became increasingly absorbing. How was the central character Annie going to resolve her increasingly large assortment of problems? Talk about climb every mountain …
For me, the author hit her stride in Part II. Easy to read, the story took a stronger shape as events unfolded and the use of parenthesis lessened. Some readers may find wearying the emphasis on the (Roman?) Catholic faith and its strict requirements for the faithful, as indeed it became more difficult for Annie who finally saw through the use of guilt and the underlying hypocrisy by some followers.
The strict background of the Catholic religion as it affected Annie and particularly her father, had to be laid out, but I felt Part I could be shorter and the story would have lost nothing.
The suspense in Part II is nicely drawn, and the reader becomes emotionally involved with Annie as she comes to grips not only with her family difficulties, but with Truth, and the perception of Truth in different levels of society and beliefs. Aside from Annie, who becomes older and wiser as she endeavours to overcome mounting problems, Caitlin Hicks has developed a solid assortment of characters from the unbending Daddy and the lovely developing portrait of Annie’s mother, down to Santiago the bus driver, nicely observed through Annie’s eyes.
The Theory of Expanded Love ends with fine resolution, a necessary expansion of love, and we see that stubborn people who refuse to change will carry on in their blinkered way, to their own loss. – Julia Osborne – writer, author firstname.lastname@example.org
I couldn’t put this book down. The development of the characters was so well done, I imaged I could be eating Sunday meals with them. With each chapter, I wanted more. While humor is a great part of the book (found myself laughing out loud at times), the issues addressed kept me reflecting on family and values. It’s difficult to believe that this is Hicks debut novel. I would love a sequel about Annie all grown up!
–Betty Brune – Review on Amazon.com
I could identify with this story, having been raised in a Catholic family in Pasadena. Yet, I don’t think it’s necessary to be either Catholic nor a resident of California to enjoy this book. Once you get into it, you won’t be able to put it down. Funny and poignant at the same time.
Mary Castillion – Review on Amazon.com
Terrific work! The prologue is very intense and compelling, draws us in. I found all chapters told spellbinding stories. Wonderful how you have remembered all the fine details of the times, the magazines and movies what people watched on TV, all such good memories, that so fully round out your stories. In the reading, your characters come alive and we become attached to them , or suffer with them; you bring us right into all the activities in such a real and vivid way. About the faith and religious part: you have handled it with truth, and very fairly and it just slowly moves along to God knows what lies ahead, but so far without an axe to grind or a cause to beat us with. I like the faith part very much.”
Such a good story, spellbinding; a real picture of a family.” Linda Szabados, writer
Want to know how growing up in the sixties was for a preteen girl raised in a large Catholic family was? Well, this is your read. It was engrossing, entertaining and fast paced. Annie’s narrative shows the effect of those times, being a female, living within the structure of a large military family that has strong religious ties. Her entire world and thoughts were a result of this upbringing. But, it also gives light to the time of social change. Annie has the courage to question some of the values and morals that she was taught. Enjoy! This book will take you back in time.
Althea – Review on Amazon.com
A completely charming and riveting read; so reminiscent of the 60s.
I found it to be an honest rendition of the collision of Catholic dogma with a child’s innate wisdom.
With 13 kids there’s not much time for answering the philosophical questions of each child’s burgeoning intelligence. So, if it is true that one’s heart and love expand to greet each new child, is that directly proportional to the time one has to parent?
The frisson of menace will keep you reading and, perhaps in the end, appreciating how far we’ve come.
Mary – Review on Amazon.com
I LOVED THIS BOOK!! Caitlin Hicks has written a wonderful story of growing up in a large Catholic family in Pasadena in the early sixties.
Ms Hicks voice is funny, insightful and engaging. She captures the feeling of the times, and of the complex nature of families, with all the light and the dark tones that lead you along to be swiftly caught up in the life of twelve year old Annie Shea: her myriad siblings, her martinet military father, her overloaded mother, and Annie’s fantasy life with the Church and the rituals therein. The characters will stay with you.
Judith Strick – Review on Amazon.com
I enjoyed this so much! I thought Annie a stunning character and absolutely loved the book. It’s so full of humour and vivacity. A terrific read. Thank you.
Ann Hopkins, Review on Amazon.com
“Hilarious . . too funny. . . Good isn’t the word for it. Good story with great tension.
“Excellent, a huge fall from grace. Very entertaining, lively and bravely truthful. A lovely glimpse of childhood faith & the big questions about God. Terrific story with so many twists and turns.”
“Brilliant ending.” –Rosa Reid, Writer, Editor
Shelley Harrison Rae
“LOVE HER and like when I finish reading any good book, I feel like I’ve lost a special friend.”
Shelley Harrison Rae, Certified Expressive Arts Therapist, IEATA member. www.xpressivearts.ca
Director Coast Cultural Alliance, Director Sunshine Coast Festival of Written Arts
www.wordlink.ca/ Making Connections Through Writing
Charming book. Quirky and endearing main character. Very interesting family dynamics. Set in a fascinating and tumultuous time period in America. Clearly, I’m not a writer, but Caitlin Hicks is a very good one. – AMQCS – Review on Amazon.com
Caitlin, Just finished the book today! I wish I were as good at self-expression as you so I could truly let you know how much I enjoyed it. I laughed and giggled and admired your questions and perspectives… My heart is full right now and am amazed at your perceptions discovered at such a young age. Thank you for the beautiful experience!
“I just came back from Europe: I purchased a Kindle copy of your book (A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE) prior to leaving for abroad. I found it engaging, entertaining, refreshingly honest.
“I related to the era of family and faith embedded in pretence, hypocrisy, denial etc. I loved Annie’s openness and courage. I was both delighted and moved by Annie’s mother’s vulnerability at the birth of her grandchild, as well as Annie’s compassion and insights about the realm of her mother’s maternal impact and reach; her appreciation therein.
“I congratulate you, Caitlin, for your work, your courage, your perseverance.”
-Pat Wenger (Halfmoon Bay Writer’s Group)
“Just wanted to say Bravo! Last night I finished THEORY…., having enjoyed every word. You conveyed so well the bewildering experience of Annie’s life as a questioning child in a large religious family. I liked the structure of a message to a higher power at the beginning of each chapter, the humour throughout, and the stark and honest emotion of a child, which was very moving. You even inserted sinister overtones, and while I longed for John to be punished, this was a good example of learning that life is essentially unfair.
“It’s awesome to find a book that keeps the reader laughing
“Everybody loves innocence and Annie’s guileless, precocious thought processes beguiled me. I felt totally absorbed into the ups and downs and humorous assumptions of a child’s take on life as she grows in awareness. It’s awesome to find a book that keeps the reader laughing, has intrigue, suspense and adventure….with no need for killing, violence or perversion to keep one’s interest. Ms. Hicks’ ability to write from the mind of a child is fabulous.
“I love this book!” Dhyana Bartkow (Review on Amazon)
“I finally read your book last fall, and
I just wanted to let you know that I absolutely loved it!!
“Having grown up in a Catholic family (of 5, but my dad was from a family of 13 kids and my mom a family of 8), I could totally relate to many of the experiences you wrote about, as I either experienced them first hand or through families in my community. I thought it was well written, entertaining and insightful, and a great read.”
-Yvette Cormier, Sechelt
“I loved this book. Annie’s voice is so compelling. Her world, a large American Catholic family in the 60’s, was foreign to me, yet drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. I laughed, I worried, I hurt, I cringed, and I cheered. Bravo Caitlin Hicks!” – Sharon McInnes, Writer on Amazon
“BTW – finished your book – Love it! Thought about it for a long time, in fact I still think about it like I know those people and wonder what they’re doing now.”
xoxo Marilyn Norry, Actress / Writer
5.0 out of 5 stars!
What a fabulous and engaging book! From the first pages I was captivated. This story is gutsy, authentic, and thoroughly delightful!
– Cheryl A. Sheehan on Amazon
“Basically, I read your book cover to cover, and in my opinion, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be among the top NYTimes Best Selling fiction books out there. The writing is superb, the development of your main character Annie is fantastic and the historical references are engaging. I was born in 1970, 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!”
Jennifer Karchmer, Editor, Writer
“I absolutely loved this book! It quickly became one I could not put down and I savoured every page. The main character, Annie Shea, is instantly loveable and somehow relatable (although I am neither Catholic nor from a large family) and I was quickly drawn into her crazy, feisty, hilarious world. Well done Caitlin Hicks!! I am eagerly anticipating your next book!”
-Cindy D. Richardon June 9, 2016, Amazon
A well observed endearing story
“A lively romp through Catholicism pre Vatican 2, yet poignant and nostalgic. Annie’s young teen voice fills the ear with perceptive observations that are hilarious yet pull at the heart strings. Once I picked up Caitlin Hicks book, I found it hard to put down.”
– Moira Elliott on May 7, 2016 AMAZON.ca
“Your book is terrific, it kept me up at night once I got to the middle, love your writing, it was such an amazing adventure in my own language..thank you….another one please..”