Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Lilli de Jong

By Janet Benton

PBR Review:

This is an intense story about Lilli, a young unwed mother in the late 1800s. Times were challenging for her, fiercely challenging; as she had so few options open to her. Lilli ended up in the Philadelphia Haven for Women and Infants. The woman running this place had the best of intentions, but funds were short which meant less than satisfactory conditions, resulting in abuse and misunderstandings.

It bewilders me to think that a young girl with her whole life ahead of her is essentially ruined if she chooses to keep her child or even if knowledge of her pregnancy becomes know. Lilliís journey is both shocking and incredible as she tries to overcome a series of hurdles, hardships and humiliating experiences Ė with very little support and shunned by most. This heart-wrenching story is about a motherís love for her child.

Book Club Talking Points:

The main topic is that of an unwed mother; a powerful story of a mother and her child and the overwhelming burden society places on young girls in this condition. There is also much to discuss about the role of women and the class differences that existed. Without support from family, friends or society, daily life is all consuming for Lilly.
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*Discussion Questions

1. How do you think the death of Lilliís mother affected the course of Lilliís life?

2. What role do you think Lilliís religious background played in her willingness to suffer for her choices?

3. Does her faith remain the same or change in the course of the story?

4. How did the diary form of the novel affect your experience of the story?

5. Are there challenges Lilli faced that women still struggle with today?

6. How do you think Lilliís story might be different if it was set today? In what ways might it be the same?

7. What messages about motherhood will you take away from the novel?

8. Are there choices Lilli made that you might have made differently, in her circumstances?

9. Johan tells Lilli he wonít pry into her secrets. But her mother warns that secrets will corrode bonds. Whose approach do you agree with?

10. What affected you most when you were reading Lilliís story, and what do you think will remain with you?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)

Book Summary
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 canít 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 familyís 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. ďSo little is permissible for a woman,Ē writes Lilli, ďyet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.Ē
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