A Blog of Book Reviews
These book reviews are also featured on my blog, Scorpion Stalking Duck. Here they are distilled out of the rest of the posts, kind of like that scum at the top of a pot full of boiled potatoes. The title of this blog - and the quote above - come from the forward of Hillaire Belloc's book, The Path to Rome.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
A Love That Multiplies, by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar
By Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar
ADDENDUM, DECEMBER 13, 2011:
THIS WAS PUBLISHED BEFORE WE LEARNED THAT MICHELLE HAD SUFFERED A MISCARRIAGE WHILE PREGNANT WITH HER 20TH CHILD. THE PRAYERS OF OUR FAMILY ARE BEING OFFERED FOR THE DUGGAR FAMILY AT THIS TIME OF LOSS. WE OFFER THEM OUR HEARTFELT CONDOLENCES.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar announced last week that they are expecting their 20th child, so it seems like a good time to review their most recent book, A Love That Multiplies. In addition, Carolyn asked me to read it because she thought there were some things in it which we could find helpful in raising our medium-size family with only 12 children. No family is perfect, especially one with children at every level of development, so it is good to look around to see what other large families are doing to raise excellent children. The Duggars have a lot of good advice to give.
This book is written in the first person, and is evenly divided between Jim Bob and Michelle. Occasionally the other spouse will interject some comment, adding to the subject. The book indicates whenever the speaker changes by putting Jim Bob or Michelle's name in parentheses at the start of their part. Throughout the book, recipes from the Duggar household are featured along the margin. While I thought they were out of place in some of the more serious parts of the book, they did help to lighten up the material in the main part of the book.
One observation I have about the recipes is that the Duggar family must not have a problem with sodium or high blood pressure.
The book is divided into four main parts; each of these parts consist of several chapters. The first part describes many of the challenges surrounding the premature birth of their youngest daughter, Josie. The second part deals with sharing their faith with others - only in part through the show on The Learning Channel. They describe other ways that they evangelize; it was great to hear that they would not do the TV show unless their faith were included in it. The third section discusses the way that they are raising their children, and the last part deals with relationships, including a advice on courtship, managing teenagers, and purity.
Concerns about the Book:
Before discussing some of the salient points I took away from the book, I have to make some comments about this book which should be kept in mind. First, the Duggars have done rather well in their real estate business, with rental properties which provide income with variable effort on their part. Additionally, the TLC show pays them for each show. Both of these facts make it possible for Jim Bob to be around his family a lot more than most working fathers can be. This does not excuse other men from being involved in their children's lives, it just means that most fathers have to be sure to carve out whatever time they can to be there for their sons and daughters.
Another related item is that the Duggars go on more field trips and outings than any family I know. I suspect this is also related to the format of the TLC show. Certainly no one wants to watch a show featuring the Duggar children doing laundry, matching socks, and scrubbing the floors. In addition, any facility or project which hosts the Duggar family is getting a lot of free publicity, so they probably give a discount to the family. Frequent outings are wonderful, but not very practical for most other families.
One last concern I had with the book is that it appears that the Duggars did take their dedication to ministry a bit too far after the birth of Josie. While Josie was in the NICU, the Duggars moved temporarily to Little Rock, Arkansas in order to be together. They still had to manage their house and business in their home town, and they had some commitments to appear publicly as well. In addition, Michelle's father fell and broke his hip around that time, and Michelle was torn between being with her father and staying with her premature baby. When her father died, she was alone with Josie in Little Rock, while Jim Bob and the rest of the family were on a trip combining business and pleasure. At the point that Michelle gave birth to Josie, I think the family would have been better off to drop some of their commitments rather than be going in several directions while the youngest Duggar was in the NICU. This is just my opinion, but I think that marriage and family supersede all outside commitments; my place is with my wife first, and family second.
Things I liked about the Book:
There were many good points which were brought up in this book. One of the areas which struck me personally were the sections on anger management. Both Jim Bob and Michelle pointed out that a harsh, angry voice will only push children away from their parents. They described anger as forming a wall between parent and child. Some of their recommendations were for parents to practice voice control, and to be held accountable (to someone) when one loses his temper. None of this was new to me, but it always helps to have a good lesson reinforced from time to time.
Michelle Duggar wrote about relationships, reminding me of something I have yet to learn after more than 22 years of marriage. She described a familiar scenario, where she has had a stressful day full of challenges. At the end of the day, when her husband would come home, she would relate the troubles of the day to him. Here is where Jim Bob (and I) make the mistake: instead of listening and then consoling, reassuring, and encouraging our wives, we proceed to outline a solution for all the problems we just heard. This is the last thing a woman wants to hear. She already knows what the solution is, and doesn't need us to figure that out. What she needs is our support and encouragement. I still have trouble doing this, probably because the male brain is wired differently from the female brain; we see so many things in terms of what has to be done, while women are also concerned about the emotional aspect of things.
The Duggars have excellent advice on dating versus courtship, and the reason to save oneself - even kisses - until marriage. Their example of the bicycle intended for a birthday present which is used and abused by someone else beforehand is excellent, as is their practical, health-related argument for chastity. This chapter includes a great checklist of what a woman should - and should not - want in a future spouse. A lot of the things on the list apply to young men as well as women. The book ends with a list of references for further reading.
Other than the few objections mentioned above, I found this book to be an excellent and refreshing source of encouragement and inspiration for parents of a large family. I would recommend it to families of any size. The Duggars promote being open to life, allowing God to determine the size of your family - something I like to call Supernatural Family Planning - and in this book they have given excellent advice on how to raise up the children who have been given to you by Him.