A measured memoir from a daughter of the famous family.
Growing up in the Institute of Basic Life Principles community, which she came to realize was “a cult, thriving on a culture of fear and manipulation,” Duggar and her 18 siblings were raised never to question parental authority. As the author recalls, she felt no need to, describing the loving home of her girlhood. When a documentary crew approached her father, Jim Bob, and proposed first a series of TV specials that would be called 17 Kids and Counting (later 18 and 19 Kids and Counting), he agreed, telling his family that this was a chance to share their conservative Christian faith. It was also a chance to become wealthy, but Jill, who was dedicated to following the rules, didn’t question where the money went. A key to her falling out with her family was orchestrated by Jim Bob, who introduced her to missionary Derick Dillard. Their wedding was one of the most-watched episodes of the series. Even though she was an adult, Jill’s parents and the show continued to expect more of the young couple. When they attempted to say no to filming some aspects of their lives, Jill discovered that a sheet of paper her father asked her to sign the day before her wedding was part of a contract in which she had unwittingly agreed to full cooperation. Writing about her sex offender brother, Josh, and the legal action she and Derick had to take to get their questions answered, Jill describes how she was finally able—through therapy, prayer, and the establishment of boundaries—to reconcile love for her parents with Jim Bob’s deception and reframe her faith outside the IBLP.
Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.