The four oldest Duggar girls from the well-known TLC reality series 19 Kids and Counting released a book this week that features their perspectives on how life is all about the relationships you have with family, friends, God, and potential mates. Growing Up Duggar: It's All About Relationships also looks at how the Duggar family approaches fashion, teamwork, and more, and includes anecdotes by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger (parenthesis notate who is talking each time). As I've read the past Duggar books and am well-versed in their nearing-200-episode reality show, I found this text to be only semi-interesting, with many larger questions left unanswered.
Sure, some of the family's processes could have been guessed by the informed fan, like Michelle and Jim Bob's "what things can I pray about for you?" question when having catch-up discussions with their daughters, but others were surprising, like Jim Bob providing vehicles for his girls but expects his boys to "save up and buy a car of their own." While the Duggars live out many traditional values (a story about Justin and James being chivalrous and pouring the family ice water comes to mind), this "extra expression of a dad's love and care for his girls" certainly stood out, and readers may find similar tales (i.e. parents discussing how a 12-year-old should start growing into "the kind of woman a godly guy would desire to marry," or the volunteer firefighting Jill leaving "going into burning buildings" to the men while running the pumps on the trucks) off-putting in 2014.
Yes, the Duggars who authored this book are all over 18, but Joy-Anna, who turns 17 this year, probably felt left out, especially in the memory written about the purity ring she received from Michelle and Jim Bob, and the conversations they had surrounding it. On the series, Joy often appears as an awkward middle child, eight years older than the next sister but still noticeably younger than her older sisters, so it would have been nice to include a little tidbit from her perspective as well, assuming she was interested in doing so.
But on the topic of purity, and how the Duggars believe that they will be married on God's time, not their own, the book is already outdated. In it, the girls say that none of them have felt led to a potential spouse yet, when in reality Jessa is courting, something that was announced toward the end of the last season's 19 Kids and Counting. Because the Duggars talk about praying long and hard about such situations, it is tough to believe Jessa wasn't even thinking about Ben yet when the book went to press. Instead, it seems likelier that a conscious decision was made to leave that story out of the book in order to boost audience numbers for the TLC series. However, the girls did outline what to look for when choosing a suitable spouse, so the upcoming season will undoubtedly focus on whether Ben gets angry, how he acts around others, and how he treats his parents and siblings.
Instead of Jessa's budding love story, the book gets Anna and Josh to tell their story... again. It is a saga that has been told many times, but perhaps not as many as that of Michelle and Jim Bob... whose own tale of true love is also included, though told from Michelle's perspective as "Marie." The reasonable explanation for the pseudonym is so that readers don't prejudge the young woman, but in reality it's probably so people don't skip over the section, as Michelle's cheerleading and dating days have been well established.
That said, there are new things to learn about the family, including how Jim Bob began his senate career in 1997. While the previous books and television episodes/specials have highlighted this part of Jim Bob's career, I cannot recall ever learning that it was sparked by a rally to protest partial-birth abortion. Similarly, though Jill's midwifery study is documented on-camera often, the work of the other older girls is really developed in Growing Up Duggar, explaining Jana's time with "Journey to the Heart," as well as Jinger ministering in the local juvenile detention center and with adult inmates as well.
I would recommend Growing Up Duggar: It's All About Relationships to individuals who might not know too much about the mega-family but want to learn more about their values and how they stick with the next generation as they mature. Folks who have already done considerable research may find the book lacking in original material, or even contradictory to what else the family has announced through various media. Regardless, any fan of the Duggars should be looking forward to the series' return on TLC Tuesday, April 1st.