A Theory of Expanded Love
By: Caitlin Hicks
Publisher: Light Messages
Publication Date: 6/12/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
The Theory of Expanded Love is a coming-of-age story featuring a feisty yet gullible adolescent, trapped in her enormous, devout Catholic family in 1963. Surrounded by twelve brothers and sisters, and desperate for attention, Annie creates a hilarious campaign of lies when the pope dies and their family friend, Cardinal Stefanucci, is unexpectedly on the short list to be elected pope - the first American pope.
Driven to elevate her family to the holiest of holy rollers in the parish, Annie is tortured by her own dishonesty. But when one of her brothers gets left behind at Disneyland and ‘The Hands’ visit her in her bed, when her sister becomes pregnant ‘out of wedlock’, Annie discovers her parents will do almost anything to uphold their Catholic reputation.
Questioning all she has believed, and torn between her own gut instinct and years of Catholic guilt, Annie takes courageous risks to wrest salvation from the tragic sequence of events set in motion by her parents’ betrayal.
"Annie's disarming voice evokes nostalgia for a bygone era and hope for humanity in a weary, modern world."
"This worthy debut has a disarming humor."
"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
"...enough charm to fill the corridors of Vatican City twice over."
About the Author
Caitlin Hicks is an author and international playwright and acclaimed performer in British Columbia, Canada. Monologues from several of her plays were featured in Smith & Kraus’ series Best Women’s Stage Monologues (New York).
She also wrote the play, later adapted for the screen, Singing the Bones, which debuted at the Montreal World Film Festival to stellar reviews and has screened around the world. While A Theory of Expanded Love is her debut novel, she has published several short stories, including That Rescue Feeling, which was shortlisted for the John Spencer Hill Fiction Award.
She worked as a writer for CBS and NBC radio and has performed her fiction and non-fiction for CBC national radio. In print, her writing has been published in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Vancouver Sun, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Fiddlehead Magazine, Knight Literary Journal and other publications. Hicks was raised in a large, Catholic family in Pasadena, California. Website Twitter Goodreads
A special thank you to Light Messages for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Hang on guys, this may be my longest review in history.
A W E S O M E "Hilarious and Moving" A Hit!
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-- she 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. She 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.”
“Why are adults so worried about two-piece bathing suits, mortal sins, and temptation, slumber parties, and a sister getting pregnant and putting her private parts together with a boy and sent off to live with nuns, to work while they try and take away her baby; when there is so much hypocrisy in the church and in her own family life?
”What about God, allowing the President to die? What if President Kennedy’s death is punishment for her sins? She had to do something about her sister, Clara. Where was God and the Blessed Mother? Why would her parents force her sister to give up her baby? The nuns would steal it when she gave birth, like they always do when the girl is not married. After all her mom has thirteen, what is one more?
“Why do people say lying is a sin? It is hard to realize how much lying goes on, and not sure why it’s a sin if everyone does it.” “So birth is probably something that’s not super complicated, when you have those two factors lined up—desperation and willingness—because a lot of people have gotten through it. In order for us to be here, millions of years later.
“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."
Like her dad thinks he is right about everything. He likes talking religion and politics but she 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?
“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.”
A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE, is AMAZING, and have never laughed so hard. Judy Blume, Lena Dunham, and Jennifer Weiner move over!
A note to Caitlin Hicks, Elizabeth Turnbull, and the team at Light Messages "you gals know how to crank out some winners!"
I have put off writing this review closer to pub date on purpose, as was torn with how to write the review. My apologies for using so many of your quotes, Caitlin, and Annie’s prayers. They are all awesome, so do not worry readers, there are many more included not shown here, at the beginning of almost every chapter. The mistakes are all mine if I missed something.
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.
I felt this could almost be my own story (with the exception, strict Southern Baptist-not Catholic), which is about as bad or worse, with the hypocrisy and pressure as you move from being a child, an adolescent, teen to an adult-- and sometimes the experience is not all it is cracked up to be. Life as a twelve- year-old girl is definitely overrated. It is tough, as why I prayed for boys.
"Dear God, you must have been listening. Thank you for two boys, and three step sons. One grandson. However, you did test me by throwing in a diva granddaughter.(now 8 going on 20) 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.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Let’s re-visit the spanking topic (especially at school in the sixties-home, as well). Funny story
I recall the days you got 15-20 licks with a big paddle with holes (no less-to increase the sting), at school for talking in class. I seemed to do this often. Forced to bend over and put your hands on a chair in front of the class (that is your behind facing the class). I spent hours awake the previous night, planning-trying to figure out how many pairs of shorts and padding I could use under my dress. On the day I am to receive my punishment, I would wear my yellow long waist heavy wool jumper, (this of course happened more than once) with the box pleats, so as to cushion the blow. That is, until my grandmother puts my jumper in the wash and it shrank to the size of a miniature doll dress (no more yellow paddle jumper).
Wow, think about it--the authorities would have the teacher, and the school locked up in today’s world, a law suit waiting to happen. At home, they would have the parents turned over to social services. Boy we had it rough in the sixties and seventies; however, guess not as bad as our parents who had to walk 20 miles to school in the snow, or so they say? Plus milk the cows, etc. etc. blah, blah.....Let’s not forget about the white go-go boots of the sixties, and the patterned hose/sock which matched our shirts. Too good.
BUY IT. Comes out June 12! You can thank me later readers, for the heads up
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