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Alice Munro's Daughter Reveals Childhood Abuse and the Family's Silence

By Dustin Rowles | Books | July 8, 2024 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | July 8, 2024 |


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In 2002, Sheila Munro published Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up with Alice Munro, a well-regarded memoir about her childhood as the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning Canadian author Alice Munro. The book explored Alice’s life, writing process, and the family dynamics that influenced her work.

However, it conspicuously omitted the experiences of Andrea Skinner, Alice Munro’s youngest daughter. Andrea recently revealed that she was sexually abused by her stepfather, Gerald Fremlin (Alice’s second husband), for many years, beginning when she was nine. Andrea initially told her father and stepmother, who chose (inexplicably) not to inform Alice.

Years later, when Andrea finally disclosed the abuse to her mother, Alice’s response was devastating. Rather than offering support, Alice reacted as if her husband had been unfaithful, focusing on her own feelings of betrayal. She dismissed Andrea’s trauma, insisting, “You were such a happy child.” Alice was further angered that her ex-husband had withheld this information, believing he did so to humiliate her.

Although Alice temporarily left Fremlin, she ultimately returned, staying with him until his death in 2013. She justified this decision by claiming she was “told too late,” that she loved him too much, and that societal misogyny was to blame if Andrea expected her to sacrifice for her children.

This painful reaction compounded Andrea’s trauma, representing a profound betrayal by the parent meant to protect her. In 2005, Andrea reported the abuse to the police. Fremlin pleaded guilty and received two years of probation, yet Alice remained with him.

While Alice Munro may be hailed as one of the greatest short-story writers of her generation, her response to her daughter’s abuse is, to many, unforgivable. Andrea and Alice never reconciled before Alice’s death in May.

Source: Toronto Star