Author: Janet Benton
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publish Date: May 16, 2017
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "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 a life of poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.
Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overpowers her heart. Mothers in her position have no sensible alternative to giving up their children, but Lilli can't bear such an outcome. Determined to chart a path toward an independent life, Lilli 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 perilous streets of a burgeoning American city. Lilli de Jong is at once a historical saga, an intimate romance, and a lasting testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.""
My Two Cents:
"Lilli de Jong" is the story of Lilli, a young Quaker woman living around Philadelphia in the late 1800s. When she gets pregnant out of wedlock by a man she loves, she is forced to go out on her own as her positively evil stepmother will not see to helping Lilli at all. Lilli will be forced to try to make her way in the world on her own with her baby, a tall order for a woman at the time! This book gave me a ton of insight into a time and setting that I haven't read a lot about. What a treat for my fellow historical fiction readers!
This book does such a good job of describing how things were for woman in those days. Lilli first goes to a home for unwed mothers (based on a real place; I loved reading about the real place in the author's note). Most women give up their children and the book has some detail about what that is like. Lilli decides to forge her own path and keep little Charlotte. Lilli still has to work because she is on her own and must find some way to make ends meet. Lilli is already quite limited in what she can do outside of working on her family's farm. Since that's no longer an option and she is even more limited after having Charlotte, Lilli is forced into some pretty unsavory situations. The book is told through Lilli's diary entries so you get incredibly close to her and are pulling for something good to happen the whole way.
The book is also timeless in a way! I am a mother and I think this book captures a lot of the feelings that you go through as a parent. She captures the instantaneous connection that you have with your kid. Here is one of my favorite handful of lines in the book: "My problem is how deeply she affects me. The doctor cut the fleshy cord that connected us, but an invisible one has taken its place. I begin to suspect that this one can be neither cut nor broken." You're willing to be uncomfortable and do uncomfortable things so that your child can have a better life. Lilli does this over and over and over throughout the book because her daughter means so much. It was so interesting to see the juxtaposition between Lilli's relationship with her daughter and Lilli's frayed relationship with her last remaining biological parent, her father.
I loved this book a lot! You're pulled in from the very beginning and then you're not let go until the very end!