I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not impact the content of my review.
Lilli de Jong
by Janet Benton
Published: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Formats: Hardcover & eBook
A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.
Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.
Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”
Janet Benton’s Lilli de Jong is a historical masterpiece, wondrously researched, gorgeously written, and psychologically intense.
Lilli’s story is heart-wrenching. It is also inspiring. She is kicked out of her home after becoming pregnant. She unwed, an obedient Quaker girl, who lives in a time when even charities and churches won’t help an unwed mother. One small, poverty-stricken charity is able to help her for a short while, but only until her baby is born. And then, she must leave, give up her child, and be seen as the lowest of the low in society. But Lilli wants to keep her child. And this makes things that much worse for her.
Told through Lilli’s diary entries, the language of this story is a pleasure to read. Benton has Lilli’s voice perfected. Nothing felt out of place. Each entry felt honest and real and read like a real diary entry in Lilli’s distinct voice.
Set in a time when women had no rights, in which sin or bad behaviour was seen as something contagious, and children born outside of marriage were seen as trash – this book is incredibly emotional.
A phenomenal read, Lilli de Jong is a thoroughly researched and written glimpse into a little-known aspect of history and the female experience.
Despite amazing research that rings true, fantastic editing that makes the story flow smoothly, and incredible writing, I couldn’t give it five stars. It hurt my heart too much. Because I know that Lilli is a manifestation of so many women who lived (and often died) through hellish circumstances simply because they were raped or tricked or made one bad decision.
Praise for Lilli de Jong
“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World
Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, July 10
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, July 11
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, July 12
Review at Luxury Reading
Thursday, July 13
Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer
Friday, July 14
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Monday, July 17
Review at trishajennreads
Tuesday, July 18
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Friday, July 21
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, July 24
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Tuesday, July 25
Review at SJ2B House of Books
Wednesday, July 26
Review at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, July 27
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Friday, July 28
Review at Just One More Chapter
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.