Nonfiction — print. Howard Books, 2014. Originally published 2013. 256 pgs. Library copy.
Confession: the Duggar family is my guilty pleasure. While I no longer watch their show each week, I could not pass up the opportunity to read their book, particularly one written by the four oldest daughters. The subtitlele, “It’s All About Relationships”, suggests the book will touch upon romantic relationships, which is rather humorous considering none of the girls had entered into a courtship (the Duggar equivalent of dating) before the publication of the book.
In actuality, the book focuses on the relationship between parent and child with the majority of the book spent offering parenting advice. Yes, parenting advice from four girls who are not parents.
As odd as that sounds, it is not all together unexpected that that these girls would be offering parenting advice given how Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger raised their younger siblings. (According to a recap I read, the recent episode where Jill went dress shopping was spent with Jill reminiscing about changing diapers, feeding, and dressing her younger sister, Joy Anna. She was seven when Joy Anna was born.) None of this is parenting advice I would employ; I disagree with the notion that a child should always obey and never, ever question their parents. And I find it bemusing that Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger mention how their late night conversations with their parents is proof of how much attention they receive because fewer children would mean their parents could converse with them during the day allowing everyone to sleep at night. Less sleep is indicative of less time per child contradicting their message.
However, I was expecting antidotes and recollections of what it is like to be raised as a Duggar and the girls rarely rise to meet this expectation. There are a few pictures from their childhood sprinkled amidst the text yet the stories behind the pictures are never touched upon and the captions fail to add any more information.
The structure of the novel was off-putting from the start due to the constant use of the first person despite the four different narrators, which is same style employed by their parents in their book. I have seen some people suggest Michelle and Jim Bob wrote the book and put their daughters’ name on it, especially after the whole family began showing up for the girls’ book signings, but I heard Jill’s voice in every single page, again despite the four different narrators.
Interestingly enough, the Duggar daughters are clearly even more judgmental than their parents. The blame for this resist their parents, of course, but it is quite stunning how willingly and thoroughly these four girls cast judgement on people they have never interacted with. From their derision of women who dress immodestly in their eyes to those who have sex outside of marriage to people who do not vote for Rick Santorum, it is clear that these girls (or, who ever wrote the book) have been raised to have a holier-than-thou attitude towards the rest of the world making this “memoir” into a sermon that rejects their audience rather than expresses the love the Duggar girls claim to have for their readers or the lessons of the god they claim to follow.