Daughter Delivers Shocker Over Late Writer Alice Munro

Andrea Skinner says stepfather abused her when she was a child, and that Munro stayed with him
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2024 6:03 AM CDT
Daughter Delivers Shocker Over Late Writer Alice Munro
Canadian author Alice Munro is photographed during an interview in Victoria, British Columbia, on Dec. 10, 2013.   (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

The literary world mourned when Canadian Nobel laureate Alice Munro died earlier this year at the age of 92. Now, a shocking addendum on what the New York Times calls "a dark family secret," delivered via Munro's own daughter, Andrea Skinner.

  • The allegations: "My stepfather sexually abused me when I was a child. My mother, Alice Munro, chose to stay with him," the title of Skinner's Sunday essay in the Toronto Star begins on her accusations against the late Gerald Fremlin, who Skinner says sexually assaulted her when she was just 9, then continued the abuse over the next several years. "He made lewd jokes, exposed himself during car rides, told me about the little girls in the neighborhood he liked, and described my mother's sexual needs," Skinner writes, noting that the abuse stopped when she was a teen.

  • Munro's reaction: For Skinner, that was just as devastating as when at age 25, she finally told her mother what happened. Skinner, now 58, notes that she made her revelation after Munro showed sympathy for a short-story character who'd been sexually assaulted by her stepfather. But Munro "reacted exactly as I had feared she would, as if she had learned of an infidelity," Skinner writes. "She believed my father had made us keep the secret in order to humiliate her. She then told me about other children Fremlin had 'friendships' with, emphasizing her own sense that she, personally, had been betrayed."
  • Coda: Skinner notes her mother stayed with Fremlin until he died in 2013, and that "the silence continued" on what had happened to her until now—despite the fact that Skinner went to the police in 2005 and had her stepfather charged with indecent assault. Thanks partly to letters Fremlin had written admitting to the abuse (but blaming it on Skinner), he received a suspended sentence and two years of probation at the age of 80.
  • The fallout: Munro "said that she had been 'told too late,' she loved him too much, and that our misogynistic culture was to blame if I expected her to deny her own needs, sacrifice for her children, and make up for the failings of men," Skinner writes, noting that she finally decided to tell her truth because "I never wanted to see another interview, biography, or event that didn't wrestle with the reality of what had happened to me, and with the fact that my mother, confronted with the truth of what had happened, chose to stay with, and protect, my abuser."

  • Reaction: In a statement, the now independently owned Munro Books, founded by Alice Munro, says it "unequivocally supports Andrea Robin Skinner" and that "we will need time to absorb this news and the impact it may have on the legacy of Alice Munro, whose work and ties to the store we have previously celebrated."
  • Reaction II: The Munro family (Andrea and her siblings) also posted a short statement thanking Munro Books for "being so supportive as Andrea shares her story of childhood sexual abuse, and journey of healing," per the CBC. The family also asked that the bookstore "not be asked or expected to answer questions about the Munro family."
  • Reaction III: The literary world, meanwhile, is reeling, per Time. "The Alice Munro news is so completely and tragically consistent with the world she evoked in her stories—all those young people betrayed and sabotaged by adults who were supposed to care for them," novelist Jess Row posted on X.
Read Skinner's essay in full here. (More Alice Munro stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.