Alice Munro’s daughter reveals dark family secret weeks after death of literary icon and Nobel Prize winner

By Germania Rodriguez Poleo, Chief US Reporter for Dailymail.Com

13:36 08 Jul 2024, updated 14:08 08 Jul 2024

The daughter of Canadian literary icon Alice Munro has accused the late writer of turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her stepfather.

Just weeks after the Nobel laureate died at age 92, her youngest daughter Andrea Skinner detailed the allegations against her late stepfather Gerald Fremlin in a moving essay for the Toronto Star.

According to the Toronto Star, Skinner, now 58, went to police about the abuse in 2005. Fremlin was 80 at the time.

Fremlin, a cartographer, was sentenced to two years’ probation and a presumptive sentence. Munro chose to remain with him until his death in 2013.

Skinner said she wanted “the story, my story, to be part of the stories that people tell about my mother… I never wanted to see another interview, biography or event that didn’t grapple with the reality of what happened to me, and the fact that my mother, faced with the truth of what happened, chose to stay with and protect my abuser.”

The daughter of literary icon Alice Munro says she was sexually abused by her stepfather since she was nine years old – and that her mother stayed with him after she learned about it
Just weeks after the Nobel laureate’s death at age 92, Munro’s daughter Andrea Skinner described the allegations against her late stepfather Gerald Fremlin in a moving essay

In her essay, Skinner wrote that Fremlin began sexually abusing her in 1976, when she was nine and he was in his fifties.

She said the first sexual assault occurred during a visit to Munro and Fremlin’s Ontario home, after Fremlin climbed into the bed where she was sleeping.

Skinner said she told her stepmother, who told her father, who did not confront Munro.

Skinner says that in the years that followed, Gremlin often exposed himself to her, telling her about her mother’s sexual needs and “about the little girls in the neighborhood he liked.”

“At the time I didn’t know this was abuse. I thought I was doing a good job of preventing abuse by averting my eyes and ignoring his stories,” Skinner wrote.

Skinner added that Gremlin lost interest in her when she reached her teens, but she still suffered from the effects of the abuse and developed bulimia, insomnia and migraines.

After Munro responded to a story about a character who committed suicide after being sexually abused by her stepfather, Skinner decided to tell her mother the truth.

Skinner, pictured as a child, wrote that Fremlin began sexually abusing her in 1976, when she was nine and he was in his 50s.
Skinner’s essay has shocked the literary world, where Munro is praised for perfecting the contemporary short story and is known for exploring themes of sex and trauma

Skinner wrote a letter describing the abuse, saying that Munro “reacted exactly as I had feared, as if she knew of the infidelity.”

“Despite her sympathy for a fictional character, my mother had no similar feelings for me at all,” she wrote.

Skinner added of her mother: ‘She said she was “told too late”… [that] She loved him too much, and that our misogynistic culture was to blame when I expected her to ignore her own needs, sacrifice for her children, and compensate for men’s shortcomings.

“She was adamant that whatever happened was between me and my stepfather. It had nothing to do with her.”

Munro then reportedly left her marital home and moved into an apartment she owned. Meanwhile, Fremlin wrote letters to the family admitting the abuse, but blaming Skinner, describing her as a “homewrecker” and accusing her of entering his bedroom “for sexual adventures.”

Skinner says that Fremlin wrote in a letter: “If the worst happens, I intend to go public… I will make available for publication a number of photographs, particularly some taken in my cabin near Ottawa which are extremely telling… one of Andrea in my short underwear.”

But Munro returned to Fremlin and remained with him until his death.

Alice Munro, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, represented by her daughter Jenny Munro (L), receives her Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in 2013

Skinner says she never made amends with her mother, but now has a good relationship with her siblings Andrew, Jenny and Sheila.

Skinner’s essay has shocked the literary world. Munro has been praised for perfecting the contemporary short story and for his exploration of themes such as sex and trauma.

The characters in Munro’s stories are often girls and women who lead seemingly unremarkable lives, but who face all kinds of problems, from sexual abuse and failed marriages to repressed love and the devastating effects of growing older.

Michelle Cyca, a Canadian magazine writer and editor, wrote on X: ‘Many people reflexively deny that Alice Munro knowingly spent her life with the pedophile who abused her daughter, or they are too quick to say that they never liked her writing.

“It is more difficult to accept the truth that people who make transcendental art are capable of monstrous acts.”

American novelist and essayist Brandon Taylor wrote: I am so impressed by her courage… [her account] ‘is personally devastating, because I recognize so much of my own story and history in her experience.’

Munro died in May after suffering from dementia for at least a decade.

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