This is the second book written by one of the Duggar girls who were made famous by the TLC hit show 19 Kids and Counting. Jill is the second daughter of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The show attempted to portray the wholesome Christian lifestyle and values of the huge Duggar family. The Duggars are strong supporters and followers of Bill Gothard’s legalistic and cultish Institute in Basic Life Principles, and much of Jill’s book exposes the hypocrisy of IBLP and her parents’ teachings drawn from it.
The heartbreak behind Jill’s story is connected with the sexual abuse she suffered from her older brother Josh. When this abuse became public, Jill and her husband were devastated. Adding to their struggles was the increased conflict with Jill’s father regarding his control issues, the TV show, and finances, resulting in strained relationships and partial separation from Jim Bob.
The important take-aways from Counting the Cost include the destruction caused by the harsh, legalist, and authoritarian family structure stemming from the teachings of Bill Gothard. Much can also be learned about the trauma of sexual abuse, especially when those in authority mishandle the situation. Adding to Jill’s pain was the public nature of her ordeal as the secular media used it as a means of entertainment and financial profit.
Jill’s story is still being written, and it is hopeful that she will make wise biblical choices as she works through all she has experienced. Whether she should have written this book is debatable. I assume her motives were to expose the legalism to which she was subject, and to draw attention to the horrors of abuse and how sad it is when someone’s sorrow becomes entertainment for others. But the picture she draws of her father is ugly, even though she makes efforts to somewhat soften his accusations. This reviewer has little sympathy for Jim Bob’s approach to parenting and his attempts to control and micromanage his children’s lives even into adulthood. Still, his family philosophy originated with Gothard who became his guiding light. Jim Bob is responsible for being taken in by Gothard, but Gothard’s principles have deceived many. And what father hasn’t made mistakes? Yet, Jim Bob’s are put on display for all to see, and he has no means to defend or explain himself. Most of us fathers could be thankful our children do not write books concerning our mistakes in partenting. At any rate, Jill’s work will serve some helpful purposes, as pointed out above. Hopefully, some who have bought into the lie that rules can change hearts will learn some things of value by reading Counting the Cost.
by Jill Duggar with Derick Dillard and Craig Borlase (New York, NY: Gallery Books, 2023), 288 pp., hard $14.49
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel