I just finished listening to The Hope We Hold, read and written by Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo, with the assistance of a ghost writer. The Vuolos are two of the stars of TLC’s recently cancelled show, Counting On.
Jeremy and Jinger each recounts a few stories from their youth in alternating chapters, and then share the story of their courtship and first couple of years of marriage together. The audiofile was very easy to listen to and finish quickly since it is only six hours long… an easy accompiant to a day WFH on the computer.
I have always had a deep fascination and skepticism of the Duggar Family from the first special I watched, 15 kids and Pregnant Again. Although not unique to the USA, that deep Christian fundamentalism is foreign to me, and yet the family aspect and comradery drew me in … I was a lonely child.
Jinger and Jeremy are very careful and precise with what they chose to share in this short memoir. Most stories shared were already common knowledge, either from intense media scrutiny or because it was aired on the show itself. However, they were more open about aspects of their courtship and family planning than ever revealed in the TLC confessional booth.
Apparently it is true that JimBob Duggar requires potential suitors of his daughters to fill out a 50 page word document of questions. That doesn’t include blank space for the answers mind you, that is 50 pages of QUESTIONS. When viewed from the perspective that this family has been on television for more than a decade and the Duggar females receive male attention all the time, this doesn’t seem so extreme that they have given their blessing for Mum and Dad to screen their suitors. Especially as they tend to marry young and have limited life experience.
Despite all the justification in the book though, it still creeps me out the level to which a guy has to impress Dad Duggar – who seemingly does 99.9% of the screening solo – before even beginning a courtship with a Duggar daughter. I think it ended up being about 8 months from first conversation to the time JimBob finally allowed Jinger and Jeremy to start “dating”. Not only did Jeremy have to bare his soul, pass through multiple family members and the Duggar’s pastor, his parents also had to be vetted before “Jing” and “Jer” could start their courtship. If you knew that the person on the other side was your one true, then it would all be worth it, but to go through all that for someone you seemingly share values and attraction with, but don’t really know for yourself seems ludicrous.
As does the whole chaperone thing but we won’t even get into that here.
What struck me most in The Hope We Hold was Jinger’s remembrance of Grandma Duggar, who tragically passed shortly after the birth of Felicity Vuolo. I miss my own grandmother every day, and although it has been a couple of years since her death, I still sometimes think, I should give her a call today, or those flowers are beautiful … I think Grandma would love them. And then I realize all over again.
The Hope We Hold is certainly emotional at times, but it is also an uplifting story of hope, love and family. Uplifting is something we could all use a bit more of right now, and I enjoyed listening to their stories despite not sharing their culture and faith. Jinger’s narration is reasonable and she has a melodic voice, but there are large parts where it feels like she is just reading the book to you, rather than recalling her own memories or reciting something from heart. Whether that was just nerves or something else, her narration smooths out by the end, and Jeremy’s – perhaps due to his experience as a church leader – is fluid, easy-listening all the way through.
I recommend this book to anyone spiritual/religious, seeking a positive and hopeful story, or just interested in learning more about the fundamentalist culture and religion that the Duggars come from. If they released a second book, I would listen to it as well.
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