Alice Munro Shocker Didn't Shock Some of Her Colleagues

At least 2 people come forward to say they knew about the situation for years
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2024 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Jul 10, 2024 4:03 AM CDT
Alice Munro Shocker Not So Shocking to Some of Her Colleagues
Canadian author Alice Munro is photographed during an interview in Victoria, BC, Tuesday, Dec.10, 2013.   (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Alice Munro's daughter delivered a shocking revelation about her late mother Sunday—but apparently Andrea Skinner's claim that the Canadian writer knew about her sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather, and stayed with the man anyway, did not come as a revelation to some of Munro's closest colleagues. A biographer, as well as Munro's Canadian editor and publisher, tell the Washington Post they were aware of the situation described by Andrea Skinner, Munro's youngest daughter:

  • Biographer: "I knew this day was going to come. I knew that it was going to come out, and I knew that I would be having conversations like this," says Robert Thacker, who wrote a biography of Munro. He says she told him about the situation in 2005 as his book was going to press, and he chose not to make it public because he felt it was a private family matter, and he wasn't writing a "tell-all."

  • Editor and publisher: Similarly, Douglas Gibson, Munro's Canadian editor and publisher, says "Gerry Fremlin's full shameful role" in the estrangement between Munro and Skinner became clear to him in 2005. "I have nothing to add to this tragic family story and have no further comment to make."
  • Surprise: Others close to Munro, like fellow Canadian author Margaret Atwood, said they'd had no idea of the allegations that Fremlin abused Skinner when she was a child. (The year 2005 was when Skinner went to police and got Fremlin charged with indecent assault; he pleaded guilty and letters were produced in which he confessed to the abuse. The news, however, didn't seem to have a wide reach.)
  • Hints? Thacker says Munro's 1993 story Vandals, in which a woman represses her awareness of the fact that her partner has sexually abused children, has long been seen by followers of Munro as being "directly connected" to the Fremlin situation, which Skinner says she first revealed to her mother in 1992, when she was 25. Munro chose to stay with Fremlin until his death in 2013. In her essay, Skinner says, "Many influential people came to know something of my story yet continued to support, and add to, a narrative they knew was false."
  • The people who are shocked: Meanwhile, the New York Times looks at those in the literary world who were indeed shocked by Skinner's essay. "These revelations not only crush Munro's legacy as a person, but they make the stories that were, in retrospect, so clearly about those unfathomable betrayals basically unreadable as anything but half-realized confessions," says author Rebecca Makkai. The London Free Press says people from Munro's hometown were also surprised by the news.
(More Alice Munro stories.)

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