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The Sunflower

REVIEW: ‘Counting the Cost’ is required reading for former Duggar fans

Photo+courtesy+of+Gallery+Books
Photo courtesy of Gallery Books

I’ll be honest when I say that I grew up with the Duggar family. Living just one county south of the star family of the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting,” the Duggars were a huge staple of my childhood. 

The Duggars followed the teachings of a group called the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), specifically the “Quiverfull” ideology that values having as many children as possible over pretty much anything else. Other IBLP ideals stress the importance of sexual purity, traditional gender roles and gaining political and social power to minister the Christian gospel.

My mom didn’t have any other children, but we resonated with the Duggars’ ideals. Like them, we were Christian, lived in Arkansas and loved Silver Dollar City. This sweet, mild and meek family simply touched our hearts, and we tuned in for every marriage, birth and everything in between. 

So when daughter Jill Duggar released a memoir recounting her experiences growing up Duggar (and defining herself outside of being a Duggar), my mom and I jumped at the opportunity to check it out. Alongside writer Craig Borlase and her husband Derick Dillard, Jill gives a detailed account of her adolescence in “Counting the Cost,” which was released in September 2023.

Although the memoir starts with memories from Jill’s childhood, the pace intensifies following Jill’s marriage to Derick Dillard. My mom and I excitedly tuned in to the episode premiere of the wedding in 2014, which seemed like a perfectly joyous occasion. 

However, more than nine years later, Jill touches on what went on below the surface in her book. The event was far more publicized than she had ever wanted, a common theme throughout her life that would extend from small aspects of her relationship to the birth of her first child. 

In 2015, the image of this perfect Christ-following family was shattered when In Touch Weekly magazine revealed a huge family secret without permission: the oldest child, Josh Duggar, had been touching four young girls, including at least two of his sisters, from 2002 to 2003. For those who didn’t keep up with the legal drama, Jill covers the extent of the story in her memoir, mingled with how these events impacted her directly. Josh revealed his abuse to his parents in 2006 and faced essentially no consequences. Jill was one of these sisters — she found that a huge part of her personal trauma was being relived for entertainment. 

I applaud Jill for sticking to her guns and not explicitly bringing up her own trauma in her memoir. Instead, she focused on the long legal battle that ensued against In Touch as well as Springdale, Arkansas, for the unlawful release of these records containing private information about juvenile victims. 

The lack of detail in her own sexual abuse does not dampen the memoir in any way. In fact, it enhances it, and I think shows a huge amount of growth in Jill. After a lifetime of having your worst moments and secrets put on national television, I think she’s entitled to more privacy. 

The original show was canceled after the information was leaked, and father Jim Bob had to work hard to get the family any sort of screen time again. Jill was practically forced by her parents to do an interview with Megyn Kelly to make it clear that her brother was forgiven, resulting in the spin-off show “Jill and Jessa: Counting On.” 

Later, in 2015, Josh was found in a data breach of the dating website Ashley Madison, which is geared towards individuals seeking extramarital affairs. He admitted he had a pornography addiction and checked himself into a rehab facility. Josh was never seen on TLC again. 

In 2021, Josh was arrested for the reception and possession of child pornography. “Counting On” was canceled, and the reign of the Duggars as the model Christian family, and Jim Bob’s IBLP ministry, was finally over. 

Jill faced a long and hearty battle with not only this legal case but separating herself from the show, gaining any sort of payment and recovering from the harmful and misogynistic teachings of the IBLP. While no longer heavily under the public eye, Jill broke away from the IBLP to find her own faith in God, even if that meant wearing pants or a nose ring — two things that dominated headlines when pictures appeared online. With Derick at her side, Jill writes heavily in the book about redefining her own religion without the fear and pain she gained from the IBLP.

One thing I admire about the memoir is how raw her writing style is. To put it plainly, she’s not a good writer. Her words are almost identical on paper to how she speaks, as shown in the documentary mini-series “Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets.” The memoir feels like a long and heartfelt conversation with her that goes off track at times but answers many of your questions. The casual style is one of the things that makes “Counting the Cost” really special, especially for a former Duggar fan.  

I watched “Shiny Happy People” when it came out last year and again after reading the memoir. Jill and her husband Derick make several appearances in the documentary, making her the only Duggar child to do so. Alongside Jill, Jim Bob’s sister and her daughter agreed to speak for the series. 

The documentary was the first real information I had gained about what was going on behind the scenes for the Duggars, but “Counting the Cost” set everything in stone. Jill’s book featured a plethora of email and text messages from her parents, specifically Jim Bob, that showed his true colors. 

Still, the reader doesn’t walk away thinking Jill is an ungrateful daughter. Even when recounting all the pain she has faced from her father, Jill writes in detail about how much she loves her father and hopes their relationship can be healed. It’s a raw portrayal of a daughter in pain at her parents’ choices, and it’s written with so much love that it’s hard to believe that Jim Bob specifically did some of these horrible things. Jill has stuck to the truth through and through, both the good and the bad. If anything, the epilogue is a love letter to her wonderful childhood.

While “Shiny Happy People” touches a lot on the IBLP and leader Bill Gothard, Jill’s memoir has a more personal touch. She talks about going from being the model child, “Silly Jilly Muffin,” to learning to have her own voice and question the teachings of the IBLP. 

With her husband to support her through thick and thin and be her voice if she struggled, Jill was able to break away from the IBLP and practice her faith in a way that felt right to her — even if that meant wearing pants, which the IBLP forbade for women. 

“Counting the Cost” was a quick and easy read and perfectly ties up the Duggar family saga. Jill has taken the honorable approach to spread the truth when she has been taught to do anything but her entire life. If you caught even a few episodes of “19 Kids and Counting,” I recommend “Counting the Cost” to set the record straight.

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About the Contributor
Sascha Harvey, Opinion Editor
Sascha Harvey is the opinon editor for The Sunflower. A junior majoring in graphic design, this is Harvey's third year on staff and second year as a section editor. He is originally from Arkansas but has no accent to speak of (unless you listen really hard). The graphic design major enjoys covering feature stories and local news. Harvey uses he/him pronouns.

Comments (19)

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  • S

    SharonJan 17, 2024 at 10:13 pm

    I watched the Duggars since the start. I was wowed by them until the release of info Josh molested his sisters from 12-15yrs old. It became obvious it was all about protecting Josh, forget the girls. I’m very disappointed how Jim Bob hosed his kids on their taxes showing money given that was not. It became about fame and control over kids. The parents rank ahead of the spouse is silly. I applaud Jill and Dereck for building their lives their way. I don’t knock them for anything written and fighting for what was owed. The sons depend too much on Daddy who has total control. Derek as a prosecutor as a career is set. Jinger created her own success. None of the four married girls have nothing to do with the cult religion. Michelle was blamed and is there for Jill. Jim Bob is an issue for finances all $8 million and fame over his kids. The book I highly recommend. Jill did a great job with it!!

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  • P

    Peggy O'BrienJan 17, 2024 at 6:54 pm

    I’m going to go buy her book and also look for other books the siblings wrote

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  • P

    Peggy O'BrienJan 17, 2024 at 6:51 pm

    Why are they also blaming Michelle Duggar she was as per their religions teaching of the Bible that says a wife is to obey her husband there are some people that believe wives should ( I don’t)obey their husbands (Ist Corinthians 14: 34-35 )and that the man is the head of the household and whatever he says the wife and children must obey…Read the old marriage vows….
    I enjoyed watching 19 kids and counting and Jill & Jessa : Counting On I loved watching all of them.I still wonder how all of them are today especially the youngest Josie Duggar she had so many health issues….❤️May God Bless you All

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  • T

    TeresaJan 17, 2024 at 3:57 am

    Jim-Bob always seemed to me to be more of an agent than a father. He used his kids to line his and Michelle’s pockets. I hope the other kids wake up and see that their father is really a demon. It’s always about the money. Good luck, Jill. I wish you peace and hopefully, the money you earned from being on the show. Jim-Bob….I pity you. When you face the Lord someday, I hope he punishes you just like any other thief.

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  • S

    SisJan 16, 2024 at 10:52 pm

    19 kids and only one did wrong id say they did something right we cant hold our parents responsible for our mistakes once we do wrong and after getting help and than continue to do bad sick things Josh is sick in his mind and anyone who is grown and has kids porn or touches a child should be locked away forever God bless the Duggar family and Joshes wife and kids and the extended families

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  • AnonymousJan 16, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    You talk about Jill having to relive her abuse, seems to me that you are doing the same thing to her with your article. Leave the girl alone so she can get on with her life. Her story has been told and doesn’t need you or anyone else dragging it up over and over.

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  • M

    Michelle DetertJan 16, 2024 at 7:22 am

    Kudos to Jill Diiard for speaking up about IBLP and sexual abuse.

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  • D

    Diane LarkinJan 16, 2024 at 6:42 am

    These kids should honor their parents !! The Bible say honor your father and mother and your days may be longer !! God gave them the parents they have be grateful !!

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    • T

      Tracy E SimmonsJan 16, 2024 at 10:26 am

      Ugh! This “christian” idea of one way respect….it how the cult grows. Take your cult beliefs and GO

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    • S

      SharonJan 16, 2024 at 10:29 am

      Did God also give them a troubled son who is serving time in prison for downloading and possessing CP and CSA? The same parents who coddled and protected their perverted son who assaulted their daughters. Those young children who so.e were very young when they started out on that show should have had monies put in trust for their future. Their father instead pimped them out. And he has the guts to call himself a Christian. God knows, he sure does.

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    • M

      Marilyn BoozeJan 16, 2024 at 1:19 pm

      You didn’t live through her pain. Honoring your parents doesn’t include letting them use and abuse you.

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    • P

      PamalaJan 16, 2024 at 1:29 pm

      Talking about her abusive past is healtjy. Honoring her parents had zero to do with telling her story.

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    • S

      Susan B.Jan 16, 2024 at 9:21 pm

      Diane….God wanted us to honor our parents only if our parents were honorable. Jill’s parents were not. They stole from their children, used their children foe financial gain and notoriety without giving them one cent of the money. They had the children sign contracts without even explaining what the contracts were. The covered up and sheltered their perverted son who sexually abused his own sisters. Should I keep going?? Jim Bob and his wife do not deserve to be honored by Jill or any other of their children. I believe God would agree.

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    • A

      Amy KELLYJan 17, 2024 at 8:06 am

      Diane, what should she be grateful for? That she has a father or knows who he is? Having a child does not give you free reign on them for abuse. MS Larkin, do you have children and how was your childhood? You might gave had a bad childhood but want to think you need to be OK with it. Get help from therapist .

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    • S

      Sharon KJan 17, 2024 at 10:37 pm

      Parents are supposed to protect their children from evil (Josh). It was shown in court he molested his sisters for three years. Josh went and helped with a construction job as punishment with zero accountability, therapy. Yeah, that worked out great. All those kids honored their parents. When you marry you become one not three because mom and dad still have control. Delusional at best.

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  • D

    DeeJan 15, 2024 at 11:06 pm

    Enough about the Duggers. Big deal she wrote a book. Must they put everything on the net that do? So sick and tired of hearing them, from courting, to getting engaged, to getting married, to having baby after baby, to video taping their kids opening their, Christmas presents. E N O U G H already.

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    • A

      Amy KELLYJan 17, 2024 at 8:03 am

      YHEN DON’T READ IT.

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    • S

      Sharon KJan 17, 2024 at 10:42 pm

      Then quit clicking on articles, pictures and storylines and then posting about them. It interested you enough to click on it and comment.

      Reply
  • C

    CathyJan 15, 2024 at 10:09 pm

    Jill has been my favorite of all the Duggards, happy her husband is supportive. Glad she continues to share parts of her life with folks. Hope and pray her and her family stay safe and have God in Jesus Christ name Love and protection now and Always!

    Reply