Book Buzz: Lilli de Jong

Before the current political upheaval in our country, the phrase “she persisted” might not have carried much weight. But now it has taken on an iconic meaning, representing the uphill battle women face when advocating for their right to be heard.

Book Buzz: Lilli de Jong

This struggle persists, as does our rebellion.

Lilli de Jong

As I read Janet Benton’s absorbing new novel, Lilli de Jong, I kept thinking that the eponymous Lilli, thrust into a fight for her survival, might have demurred at the idea of being a persister, but indeed her struggles in an unyielding world required every ounce of persistence one could muster.

At a time when having a child out of wedlock branded the mother — and the child — in the most cruel and unforgiving way, Lilli discovers she is pregnant and has nowhere to turn. The father of the child was unaware of the pregnancy before he moved across the state for a better job opportunity. Lilli lost her beloved mother due to an accident, and her father brought shame to the family by taking up with a first cousin afterwards. Because of that, Lilli has lost her job as a teacher. She is frighteningly alone.

Raised in the Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers, Lilli is an educated, purposeful young woman, and now is banished from the order.

Unwed pregnant women in those days had few options. Back alley abortions often resulted in the mother’s death. Keeping the baby meant a lifetime of shame for both mother and child. Giving a child up for adoption could be too heart wrenching to consider. Fathers shirked their responsibilities without fear of retribution.

Lilli decides to leave home to have her baby at an institution for unwed mothers and plans to give the baby up. But then, she just can’t.

Set in 1800s Philadelphia, the story is both harrowing and uplifting, because it is about a mother’s unrelenting fight for her child. The fierce bond between mothers and babies, and in particular the mutual nourishment of mothers and their nursing babies, propels the story line.  Lilli’s dogged determination is fueled by the unconditional love and trust of her baby.

I loved the historical background of this story. Having always lived in the Philadelphia region, I enjoyed learning more about this era and recognizing the local landmarks. Though this is a novel, this feels very authentic. In Lilli’s diary form, it reads like a memoir.

Benton has a lovely, engaging writing style and the plot had some unexpected turns. She has given us a glimpse into the past that continues to resonate in the present day. Lilli de Jong is a virtual maternal hug of a novel, that acknowledges the persistence of mothers everywhere.


One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Lilli de Jong. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Lilli de Jong from Nan A. Talese/Doubleday for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.



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16 Thoughts on “Book Buzz: Lilli de Jong

  1. Jennifer on May 23, 2017 at 2:33 pm said:

    I have read many great things about this book, including your review. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and my husband’s family is from near Philadelphia, so this one interests me quite a bit. 🙂

  2. This is a great review! The book looks to be very empowering. I’ll be sure to check and see if my local library has it!

  3. Lindsay A Tullar on May 23, 2017 at 4:31 pm said:

    I love stories set in the 1800’s. Something about them bring a whimsical and raw feel to the reader. This looks like a brilliant read and will definitely look into it!

  4. It is clear from reading this post that this is a book that you are very passionate about. I can certainly see why. This reads to me to be a very powerful story and I am wondering how it all turns out in the end. A book that I would certainly enjoy getting to the bottom of.

  5. Claudia Krusch on May 23, 2017 at 9:23 pm said:

    This sounds like the kind of book I like. I am looking for something to read on my upcoming trip. I will have to get a copy this weekend.

    • hbludman on May 24, 2017 at 11:58 am said:

      It’s a great book to take on a trip. It will make the time go by because you won’t want to put it down.

  6. This is a great review. Historical fiction i love to read such books. Hope i will get a copy of it shortly.

  7. What a great giveaway! Lilli de Jong sounds like a great book, I would love to read it!

  8. Ra'Nesha on May 25, 2017 at 4:05 am said:

    I would love to win a copy the book sounds very interesting.

  9. Tiara Wilson on May 25, 2017 at 11:42 pm said:

    This books sounds very interesting. I am a huge reader and always looking for books to read.

  10. Courtneylynne on May 30, 2017 at 12:35 pm said:

    Oooo now this book sounds like something right up my alley!! I will have to check it out!

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