What’s the Big Idea?
What happens when your family of origin is too happy?
How does one leave one’s family if there is no good reason to?
What if there is nothing to rebel against?
The Big Idea is band from the 90s that almost made it, and this novel is a family tragicomedy-cum-odyssey that covers the career of this five-piece rock band, the ups and downs of the music business, and the ways in which they fall in and out of love with each other, and with their ideas of what it means to succeed. All across a backdrop of 1990s America.
Meet the Band
Peter Becket: Oldest child, visionary, on a mission to achieve eternal life through his pursuit of his ambition, which is nothing short of changing the face of pop culture, like his heroes, the Beatles and Phillip Petit.
Rhodie Becket: Middle child, introverted, introspective, deeply connected to her family, secretly a virgin at the age of 22, she’s the best songwriter in the band, and like any songwriter, is constantly looking for the right metaphor, the hook, the meaning of things. She adores her brother and is furious when he falls in love and begins to edge toward a life independent of the family.
Zhsanna Becket: lead singer and youngest sibling, wild and undisciplined with a heart as big as Texas and a voice that transports its listeners to another time and place.
Meet the In-Laws and Out-Laws
Olivia (“Liv”) First is a disciplined Yale-educated third-wave feminist and sometime anorexic struggling with her desire to be loved, to fit in with the Beckets and somehow be adopted by them, she falls in love with Peter and the band when she sees them play as a trio at the Daily Caffe in New Haven. She sees how easy it would be for them to get famous if they only made a few good decisions, and she attempts to manage them. But they are a bit ungovernable.
Jack Slade. Seven years older than Peter, Jack is the best bass player in Jintucket. Getting him in the band would be a huge coup for the nascent Big Idea, and a little daunting for Peter who was kicked out of a Jack-led band (Notorious Ingrid) in the recent past. Jack is married to Susie, a recovering heroin addict, and the father of Millie, their young child.
Mose Healey. Raised by a single mother in Somerville, and also by a couple of Jesuit brothers from Worcester, Mose wears a Trust bracelet and is flirting with a future as a priest. But he loves music, and he is intrigued by the band’s invitation to join them. He is an easy, lovable dude who reminds Rhodie of Hephaestus. When his band Tourniquet breaks up, he inherits their van, which becomes the de facto home of the Big Idea for much of the span of the novel.
Meet the Parents
Rita Puccino Becket. Daughter of Italian immigrants, she fell in love with Harry when they were in a Gypsy-inspired production of Kiss Me Kate. She homeschooled her three children, teaches yoga, modern dance and drama, and dreams of traveling the world.
Harry Becket. Son of old money, he dabbled in various careers, and his basement displays the relics of various paths not taken—law school, massage school, carpentry––before he settle on writing a series of chapter books for young readers that featured a character named Julius Collie and his trusty sidekick Rude Cat.
Told through multiple voices, the novel follows the band members as they come of age and struggle with their own human limitations, trying to balance the drive to succeed as a unified group with their own personal lives. This is a book about the tension between the power of the communal versus the real needs of the individual; the power of engagement over isolation; the lure of heights that fame offers versus the grounding of a “normal” domestic life.
There is an accompanying 11-song soundtrack for the book, produced by Dave Chalfant. The Big Idea’s songs are performed by The Nields (Nerissa and Katryna Nields, Dave Hower and Dave Chalfant.) Liv First’s songs are performed by Dar Williams.