Alice Munro’s daughter alleges sexual abuse by the late author’s husband

July 9, 2024 4:14 pm

[Source: AP]

The daughter of the late Nobel laureate Alice Munro has accused the author’s second husband, Gerard Fremlin, of sexual abuse, writing that her mother remained with him because she “loved him too much” to leave.

Munro, who died in May at age 92, was one of the world’s most celebrated and beloved writers and a source of ongoing pride for her native Canada, where a reckoning with the author’s legacy is now concentrated.

Andrea Robin Skinner, Munro’s daughter with her first husband, James Munro, wrote in an essay published in the Toronto Star that Fremlin sexually assaulted her in the mid-1970s — when she was 9 — and continued to harass and abuse her until she became a teenager. Skinner, whose essay ran Sunday, wrote that in her 20s she told the author about Fremlin’s abuse. Munro left her husband for a time, but eventually returned and was still with him when he died, in 2013.

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“She reacted exactly as I had feared she would, as if she had learned of an infidelity,” Skinner wrote. “She 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. She was adamant that whatever had happened was between me and my stepfather. It had nothing to do with her.”

Skinner wrote that she became estranged from her mother and siblings as a result. Shortly after The New York Times’ magazine published a 2004 story in which Munro gushed about Fremlin, Skinner decided to contact Ontario Provincial Police and provided them letters in which Fremlin had admitted abusing her, the Toronto Star reported in a companion news story also published Sunday. At 80, he pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault and received a suspended sentence — one that was not widely reported for nearly two decades.

The news stunned and grieved the literary world, although some readers — and Skinner herself — cited parallels in the author’s work, for which she was awarded the Nobel in 2013 and dubbed a “master of the contemporary short story” by the judges.

Author Margaret Atwood, a fellow Canadian and longtime friend of Munro’s, told the Star that she didn’t know about Skinner’s story until after Fremlin had died and Munro was struggling with dementia.

“The kids probably wondered why she stayed with him,” Atwood said. “All I can add is that she wasn’t very adept at real (practical) life. She wasn’t very interested in cooking or gardening or any of that. She found it an interruption, I expect, rather than a therapy, as some do.”

The owners of Munro’s Books, a prominent independent store in Victoria, British Columbia, issued a statement Monday expressing support for Skinner and calling her account “heartbreaking.” The author co-founded the store in 1963 with first husband and Skinner’s father, James Munro, who continued to run the store after their 1971 divorce. Two years before his 2016 death, he turned the store over to four staff members.