Doubleday's Maurice and Thérèse: The Story of a Love, the 21-letter, late-1800s correspondence between Thérèse of Lisieux, the obscure Carmelite nun who only after death would become the revered, canonized "Little Flower," and Maurice Belliere, a young priest struggling with his vocation, has gone through five printings and is now up over 25,000 copies in print after its initial 6000-copy September sell-in. It has also hit the bestseller list compiled by the Catholic Book Publishers Association.
Like the characters in Chronicle Books' bestselling Griffin and Sabine, "These remarkable letters form a kind of epistolary romance, though the two never met," according to Doubleday's director of religious publishing, Eric Major.
The book, the first English translation of the letters from the French, is attracting attention because it affords a new look at popular religious figure, Thérèse, whose autobiography, The Story of a Soul, published right after her death in 1898, lifted her from obscurity into a posthumous prominence that led to canonization. Two years ago, Pope John Paul II elevated her to Doctor of the Church, only the third woman to acquire that distinction. "This book is unfiltered Thérèse, since we suspect the Carmelite nuns probably toned down that original autobiography a bit," said Doubleday senior editor Trace Murphy.
Cardinal John J. O'Connor spoke at the launch party for the book and allowed auxiliary bishop Patrick Ahern, who edited the book, to give guest sermons at New York's St. Patrick Cathedral just at publication.
That launch weekend alone, 1000 books were sold through the cathedral bookstore, as well as a significant number of copies of Therese's perennial bestseller The Story of a Soul, of which Doubleday has its own edition that has sold some 500,000 copies to date. Doubleday also had a national media cheerleader for the book in Mother Angelica, the feisty 70-something nun whose popular Mother Angelica Live is the most popular show on her Eternal World Network Television. She not only praised The Story of a Love, but recently has been generating orders for Doubleday's Basic Catechism of the Catholic Church, too.