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Review of ‘Lilli de Jong’

Longtime editor and essayist Janet Benton turns her considerable skills to fiction with her debut, Lilli de Jong, a beautifully written historical novel set in 1880s Philadelphia about pregnancy, motherhood and the fight for economic independence.

Twenty-two-year-old Lilli discovers she is pregnant after her lover leaves for Pittsburgh in search of better employment. Though he…

Interview with Janet Benton

In Janet Benton’s fictional debut, Lilli de Jong, a young woman finds herself pregnant and alone in 19th-century Philadelphia. Lilli’s decision to keep her baby leads her to a charity for unwed mothers, a job as a wet nurse and, briefly but most alarmingly, the perilous urban streets. A historical saga and a romance, Lilli de Jong is both a scathing indictment of societal biases and a testament to the redemptive strength of a mother’s love. With the same grace and thoughtfulness displayed in her novel, Benton answers questions about women’s reproductive rights, then and now, the Quaker faith and the power of motherhood.

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