Caitlin Hicks honored for giving voice to a fiery heroine

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The audiobook release of Caitlin Hicks’ novel A theory of expanded love was honored with the NYC Book Awards, another in a string of accolades for the Roberts Creek-based writer’s fiction debut in 2015.

The NYC Book Awards are an annual competition judged by experts representing segments of the book industry, including publishers, writers and publishers. Hicks’ audiobook was honored in the Distinguished Favorite category, which recognizes overall excellence. The announcement was made by the NYC Book Awards in late September.

The novel also won literary awards after its original publication in 2015, including Best Inspirational Fiction from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Hicks contributed her own voice to the audiobook version of the novel, which was completed in late 2021. Her husband, playwright and filmmaker Gordon Halloran, oversaw the technical production of the recording.

A theory of expanded love has its origins in a semi-autobiographical play written and performed by Hicks. six palm trees opened at the Nexus Theater in 1991 before touring internationally.

In the play, Hicks developed the character of Annie Shea, whose quick wit becomes a coping mechanism for youth in a Roman Catholic family of 14 siblings in the early 1960s.

The parallels to Hicks’ own upbringing were so pronounced that the play’s fame led to real family tensions.

“So when I wrote A theory of expanded love, it was another exploration of this whole situation with a different focus,” Hicks said. Annie Shae returns as the book’s narrator, navigating faith and family revelations through the eyes of a precocious young woman.

“I thought to myself, we have to think of something that is so wrong that my family will think [the story] doesn’t really concern them,” Hicks said. Halloran suggested a plot: a priest who served alongside Annie’s veteran father in World War II is shortlisted for the papacy. The connection to fame – however tenuous – bestows an imaginary status on the family.

“As soon as I conceived this, I took to running,” Hicks said. The script complemented Annie’s appetite for greatness. “She ends up exaggerating things and lying on the spot. And then later thinking, ‘I just committed a venial sin.’ In a family that has the image that everything is perfect, naturally [the protagonist] going to slip in there and not be perfect.

As Annie matures, she struggles to reconcile her devout Catholic faith with her parents’ startling betrayals, sublimating guilt into defiant humor and independence.

According to Hicks, the character of Annie has proven so popular with readers that she will be the subject of an upcoming sequel: Kennedy Girl. The novel takes place after the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968.

In addition to her work in fiction, Hicks is a prodigious memoirist and playwright. She was a literary contributor to CBC Radio’s Morningside, and her traveling play Singing the Bones was adapted for the screen in 2001.

Excerpts from A theory of expanded love will be read by Hicks at the Sechelt Library on November 4 at an event sponsored by the Writers’ Union of Canada. The audiobook edition is available at chirpbooks.com; Hicks maintains an active web presence at caitlinhicks.com.

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