Duggar, 32, opened up like never before in her new book, Counting the Cost, about growing up in front of TLC cameras with her famous family — and the various costs that came with fame. Her memoir touches on her experience in the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) faith, her exit from reality TV and her newfound independence (which includes a big change to her once modest dress code).
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s daughter also shed light on her brother Josh Duggar’s scandals, from his 2015 Ashley Madison apology to his 2021 arrest for child pornography. Through it all, Jill has leaned on her husband, Derick Dillard, for support. (The couple share sons Israel, Samuel and Frederick.)
In an author’s note, Jill assures readers that her goal in writing her book was not to “shame” her family or “get their attention” amid their estrangement. Days before the book dropped on Tuesday, September 12, Jim Bob, 58, and Michelle, 56, issued a statement regarding some of Jill’s claims.
“We love all of our children very much,” they noted. “As with any family, few things are more painful than conflicts or problems among those you love. … We do not believe the best way to resolve conflicts, facilitate forgiveness and reconciliation, or to communicate through difficulties is through the media or in a public forum so we will not comment.”
Counting the Cost is available now. Scroll down for the book’s biggest bombshell revelations:
On Dressing Modestly
In chapter 1, Jill recalled a childhood family trip to the beach in Georgia feeling overwhelming due to her modest upbringing. “I didn’t want to get any bad thoughts into my head, so I tried not to stare,” she said of the beachgoers in their bathing suits. “But it was hard not to, and I worried for Pops and my brothers. Us girls had been told often how much harder it was for boys to keep their thoughts pure. I couldn’t imagine the battles they were fighting out there on the sand.”
Jill further revealed that her family had a code word they would use — “Nike” — when they spotted women out and about who weren’t dressed modestly to remind them to look away.
As Jill grew older, she began to develop her own thoughts about the merits of the modesty guidelines she was taught. In chapter 7, she credited her sister Jinger with “inspiring” her to step outside of her comfort zone and recalled turning to her husband for support. (Jinger has also opted to start wearing pants — and even sported a pair of ripped jeans in 2021.)
After welcoming her second son, Samuel, in 2017, Jill wore leggings in public for the first time but remained partially covered up while nursing her newborn. She was confronted by her father a few days after the outing and given a book about modesty.
“I cried when I got home. I felt embarrassed, humiliated, even though nobody else had been in the room with us,” Jill wrote. “Pops had told us ever since we were little that we needed to be able to stand up for our convictions, even if others disagreed. Why couldn’t he see that by deciding to wear pants, I was doing exactly what he taught us? All my life I’d been trying to show respect to Pops, but when was he going to show the same to me?”
On the Fallout of Josh’s Behavior
When Jill was 11, her parents approached her to talk about her brother Josh, who had “confessed about some stuff he’s done.” He was sent away for a few months to participate in a program developed by the IBLP. Jill wrote in chapter 2 that her family “didn’t talk much” about what had happened.
“Mom and Pops gave us the bare details about Josh, and so all I really knew was that he’d been sent away to stay with some of their friends, that he would be working construction, and that hopefully it wouldn’t be long before he would return to us. That was all,” she recalled. “I was happy to move on and put it all behind me.”
Before leaving for his training, Josh told a girl he had been courting about his actions. She allegedly wrote him a letter about the situation but never sent it, instead choosing to keep it hidden in a book, which she later lent to a friend. The friend informed church leaders about the letter, which then tipped off an investigation about a “potentially abusive situation.”
Jill was “terrified” that “someone was going to take us away” from Jim Bob and Michelle.
“The fallout was immense,” she wrote. “We didn’t know who we could trust, who was for us and who was against us.”
News eventually broke in June 2015 that a police report was filed against Josh, who was accused of molesting multiple girls as a teenager. Jill and her sister Jessa, who were identified as victims, defended their family at the time in an interview with Megyn Kelly. Jill revealed in her book that Josh was in the room with them while the interview was being filmed.
On the Ashley Madison Scandal
Two months after making headlines for his past molestation, Josh was involved in the Ashley Madison data breach. He admitted in an August 2015 statement that he watched pornography and had been unfaithful to his wife, Anna. In chapter 5 of her book, Jill recalled texting her brother for answers.
“I wanted to hear directly from him, to know whether there was any truth to the rumors,” she wrote. Josh never replied. (He was sent to a Christian-run rehab in Illinois called Reformers Unanimous.)
Jill, meanwhile, began to grow uncomfortable with how steadfast her parents were in their support for Josh. “Though I love my parents and it made a lot of sense that they would want to protect and care for their child, I couldn’t help but think about the lengths that Pops had gone to in order to guard Josh’s privacy and keep him from being publicly humiliated. … The feelings grew stronger within me, and by the time I went to bed I felt sick to my core,” she wrote.
As more questions arose, Jill started to struggle with the IBLP teachings and the expectation that she would also take her brother’s side.
On Wanting to Be Paid
In chapter 5, Jill remembered sitting down with her husband and her father to discuss payment for their work on the family’s TLC series. According to Jill, Jim Bob reminded them that the show was an “opportunity to share with the world that children are a blessing.”
Dillard proceeded to ask if they could have a small percentage of the profits, but Jim Bob said it “wasn’t a very good idea,” arguing that Michelle should be paid before anyone else because she “had all these kids.” Jim Bob said he paid “some of the others who work for me” an hourly rate ($10-12) for appearing on the show.
Jill later described a family meeting during which Jim Bob announced he planned to give the boys in the family $80,000 — and credited Dillard for the idea. Jill felt like the shout-out was a “trigger” because of what they went through trying to get money for the show. She and her husband were suspicious about the offer and thought “there was some angle” Jim Bob wasn’t being fully honest about.
In order to get the money, Dillard and the other boys would have to sign a contract with Mad Family Inc. for an additional seven years — “plus an unlimited number of years beyond that if the company chose.” The contract also included a lifelong NDA. Jill and Dillard declined the deal. “$80,000 was a lot of money, but these strings were tight enough to choke,” Jill wrote.
On Leaving ‘Counting On’
While in El Salvador for a mission trip, Jill and her husband were consistently asked by producers to return home to film — and repeatedly said no. They were reminded of a contract they signed requiring them to go back, but neither one of them could recall signing the documents. (Jill previously shared a similar anecdote in Prime Video’s Shiny Happy People.)
Jim Bob got involved, insisting that the couple return home to be on camera, claiming the show would fail if they didn’t help. “If you don’t come to shoot this and TLC cancels the show again, everyone is going to look at you and know that it’s your fault and that you could have stopped it. Are you gonna be OK carrying that burden?” Jill recalled her father asking.
Jill and Dillard eventually gave in and flew home, but the incident was the catalyst for their decision to leave Counting On entirely. The couple were interested in working with the International Mission Board, but the organization would only collaborate if they quit the show. “The fallout was instantaneous,” Jill wrote of attempting to get out of the contract.
The pair finally departed Counting On in 2017 after denying the show’s request to film Jill giving birth to Samuel. Jill confessed in chapter 6 that she didn’t “remember much at all about the last interviews” she filmed for the show.
“I know what I was feeling — a mix of sorrow and gratitude, or relief and anxiety, of feeling happy that this was all behind us now at the same time as wondering what was coming next — but I don’t recall what we said. … Part of me still wonders why they didn’t bother to explain to viewers why we left. Part of me knows that it didn’t matter,” she wrote.
On Starting Birth Control
Jill had an emergency C-section while delivering her second son. The baby’s heartbeat was unstable, and the procedure was underway before Jill received anesthesia. “This is it, Jill. This is where you and the baby die. This is the end,” she remembered thinking. “There’s no more need to tough it out.”
Samuel spent some time in the NICU after his arrival, and Jill decided to go on birth control — a controversial choice in her family. (Doctors recommend avoiding pregnancy for at least 18 months after a C-section.) Jill “kept it a secret from nearly everyone” and felt guilty, despite knowing she was making the right choice for her health.
“I was devastated at the thought of not being able to have more kids, and I felt like my fertility had been robbed from me,” she wrote. “But also, dare I say it, I was somewhat relieved. The devastation far outweighed the relief, but there was a small part of me that appreciated the excuse not to have to go through a zillion pregnancies and deliveries.”
On Her Financial Struggles
Despite leaving Counting On, Jill and Dillard continued to lose out on mission work because there was no record of their contracts being nullified. The twosome drafted a letter to Jim Bob, to which he responded by apologizing for his “controlling spirit and lack of sensitivity.”
The pair later received a notice from the IRS indicating they earned $130,000 more than they ever got. Jill and her husband were inspired to have a sit-down with Jim Bob and Michelle (and a mediator) in order to sort out their issues. After three hours, the meeting ended with “not much in the way of resolution,” she wrote.
Jill and Dillard eventually pursued therapy, but the twosome’s financial burdens escalated while Dillard was in law school. They asked Jim Bob for the money they were owed — and he retorted with a lengthy outline of everything he spent on them over the years, ultimately offering a measly $2,000.
“For all the progress we were making in therapy, for all the desire we had to be on good terms with family and work things out, that email set us back a long way. It felt cold. It felt brutal. It hurt,” Jill wrote. “It seemed Pops wasn’t being generous when we thought he was being generous in the past.”
The couple then asked to see the 2014 contract they were swayed into signing, causing Jim Bob to go “ballistic.” When the dispute was “finally resolved,” Jill and Dillard received $175,000. “I never knew that victory could feel so hollow or so overwhelmingly sad,” she wrote.
On Being ‘Willing’ to Testify Against Josh
In chapter 9, Jill opened up about her brother’s 2021 arrest and subsequent trial for receipt and possession of child pornography. “These charges were way more serious than I’d expected, and I was in shock to hear how terrible the crimes he was accused of were,” she wrote.
Jill was encouraged to avoid reading about the trial because she was on the prosecution’s witness list. She recalled feeling “willing to” take the stand even though it was a “sobering” thought.
“I wanted to know the truth. I wanted the evidence to come out. And I wanted Josh to be put away for a very long time,” she wrote.
Jill’s anger toward her brother “burned,” but she also “felt sad” about what had occurred. “Sad that Josh had become such a monster, sad that even with all of the chances Josh had been given to change, he had thrown them all away and he continued down a dark, terrible road,” she wrote. “Like the rest of the world, I was finally able to see my eldest brother for what he was — a man unable to control himself, totally detached from the reality of how deeply he was hurting others.”
Josh was convicted in December 2021 and sentenced the following May to 151 months in prison.