This post contains affiliate links. For years, I was a huge fan of the Duggars. I loved watching how they managed such a large family as well as learning how they could afford to feed and care for all of those children. I stopped watching it around 2014, and then as more stuff came out about Josh Duggar, I was appalled to see Jim Bob Duggar repeatedly say on the stand that he couldn’t remember details about Josh’s issues. Even worse was when Jill and Jessa Duggar went on television to say that they barely knew they were being molested by their brother because they were “asleep.” My husband and I watched Shiny Happy People and were disturbed. But when I read Counting the Cost by Jill Duggar, I felt guilty that I had ever watched the show.
About Counting the Cost by Jill Duggar
Jill Duggar (Dillard) is the fourth child born to Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. To any one who has watched the show, much of what she recounts about her life is familiar because viewers have seen it all on the Duggars’ reality show, Nineteen Kids and Counting and later, Jill and Jessa: Counting On.
Jill has fond memories of her younger years growing up. Even though her family had so many children, her parents always carved out one-on-one time for the children, and she loved being part of a big family. She praises Michelle endlessly as well as “Pops” (Jim Bob), for the father he was in her younger years.
The trouble came once the family agreed to appear on a reality show special. Jim Bob saw the show as a ministry–a way to reach the masses to show them that children are a blessing and how Christianity impacts the family. However, the show was also a financial blessing. When the family filmed grocery trips, the show paid for the entire bill. Jill was always excited to film those episodes because they got to eat more luxurious foods than they normally ate (beans and ramen).
Unfortunately, Jill makes clear that Jim Bob became addicted to keeping the show going, even at the cost of his family. He continued to see the show as a ministry, but the money he was raking in and controlling was certainly another motivator.
My Thoughts on the Book
I have mixed feelings about this book. I have always been disturbed that Jim Bob appeared to go to great lengths to protect Josh, but he didn’t seem to give the same protection to his daughters, who were his son’s victims. Even when Josh’s misbehaviors, such as registering on a dating app for married people to have affairs and having multiple affairs, increased, Jim Bob seemed to think sending him away to work would solve the problem. It didn’t, and now Josh is in jail.
Through reading this book, I realized there was a lot viewers didn’t know. I remember when Jill and Derrick were missionaries; they set up a webpage to garner funds, and I thought that was greedy. After all, they had the money from the show. But as Jill reveals, they didn’t have the money. Jim Bob never paid them for their time on the show!
I am a private person, so I understand how difficult being thrust into the media and a reality show must have been, especially since Jill and her siblings had no say in the matter. She has been traumatized many different ways by several of the men in her family, and I’m glad to see that she’s getting therapy and working on healing and hopefully one day making peace with her parents.
I even understand why she wrote this book. Finally, she’s able to say all the things she’s wanted to clear up most about her life. However, my complaint is that the book feels biased. She shares notes and messages that Jim Bob sent her privately. These messages are not flattering and make him look bad. I don’t have a problem with that, necessarily. However, Jill mentions that she and Derrick wrote a 27 page letter to her father about all the wrongs they felt he committed. Jim Bob and Michelle talked about how much that letter hurt them; even Jill’s therapist said the letter was a bad idea, and in retrospect, Jill agrees. Yet, she never shares the content of the letter.
In a relationship, there is always hurt on both sides. Jill shares all of Jim Bob’s hurtful statements and documents, but she seems to gloss over hers. I would have found the book less biased if she would have shared some of what she did in detail to hurt the relationship as she clearly shows with her father.
I give Counting the Cost by Jill Duggar 4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.