A Silence Is Shattered, and So Are Many Fans of Alice Munro

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That image of Munro, who died in May at age 92, shattered on Sunday.

The Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood wrote in an email that she was “blindsided” by the revelations. While she had learned a bit about the cause of the family rift a couple of years ago, from one of Munro’s other daughters, she never knew the full story until she read Skinner’s account.

“Why did she stay? Search me,” wrote Atwood of Munro’s decision. “I think they were from a generation and place that shoveled things under the carpet.”

She added, “You realize you didn’t know who you thought you knew.”

On social media, a cascade of writers and journalists, including Lydia Kiesling, Brandon Taylor and Jiayang Fan, expressed shock and heartbreak at the news. Others, including the novelist Rebecca Makkai, wondered whether from now on it would be possible to divorce Munro’s transcendent writing, which occasionally explored tumultuous domestic circumstances and sudden estrangements, from her troubling behavior.

“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,” Makkai said in an email. “To me, that makes them unreadable at all.”

Skinner wrote that the abuse began when she was 9 years old and went to visit her mother and stepfather, Gerald Fremlin. He climbed into bed with her, Skinner wrote, and sexually assaulted her. She told her stepmother, Carole Sabiston, who told Skinner’s father, Jim Munro. He decided not to tell his ex-wife, Alice. Skinner wrote in The Star that Fremlin continued to expose himself to her for years.

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