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Today’s shocker: Alice Munro. Sheesh.

Another one bites the dust. Opened the Toronto Star this beautiful Sunday morning to a shocking article, alleging that Alice Munro’s second husband Gerry sexually abused Alice’s youngest daughter Andrea; that both Andrea’s father Jim and eventually her mother were told, and more or less nothing happened. The family protected the reputation of their famous mother, who needed and loved her husband, at the expense of a daughter.

To be fair, Alice apparently didn’t know about the abuse until Andrea told her at age 25. Alice left Gerry for a few months but then went back to him, and that was that. She described him as the love of her life. Andrea went to the police in 2005 and Gerry was charged, but nothing was ever made public. Andrea and her mother were estranged for the last years of Alice’s life.

How is it possible to write with extraordinary, brilliant sensitivity and depth about the lives of girls and women, and yet have little empathy for your own daughter? I guess geniuses need to be selfish. We knew that already, but here it is again.

There are many sad and appalling things about this story, one being the notes Gerry wrote about the event, in which he casts Andrea, who was nine when the abuse started, as Lolita, a seductive temptress, and himself as a hapless Humbert Humbert. I guess that’s what a lot of men tell themselves: they wanted it, they enjoyed it, what could I do?

But what’s hard to get our heads around is the brilliant Nobel prize winner choosing this man over her child. Bewildering and tragic. Her stories will of course live on, but now, I think, there will always be a taint.

Is it possible to be a really good writer and also a really good mother? Asking for a friend. I’ve written before about a book of letters between Carol Shields and a dear friend, where it’s clear the friend is busy volunteering for various good causes in her community, and Carol, the mother of four, is writing. Focus, determination, and sometimes choosing the work over all other things, I’m sure are absolutely necessary. But to what extent?

Thinking about this especially because I’m reading the superb book about men and boys, wondering how well I did with my own boy. Good enough, I hope. He’s a man who expresses his feelings and talks freely and has close friends, so that’s a win. I wish I’d thought more about the specific needs of boys, though. The author writes that she just wants her three boys to sit still and read a book so she can too, and that’s what I wanted of my boy. It didn’t happen.

Startling revelation #639: It’s hard to be a parent. But the bottom line is, you always, always, protect your children from predators. Even if you’re married to one.



6 Responses to “Today’s shocker: Alice Munro. Sheesh.”

  1. Young boys today, the majority who have phones, have pornography at their fingertips. This is the shocker, and we’re talking really young boys.

    And no one is doing anything about it.

  2. I was shocked, too, about the Alice Munro story. Too shocked for words, I don’t know what to say.

  3. Beth Kaplan says:

    True, Juliet. Girls also have porn at their fingertips. Sam told me once that he knew what porn his girlfriends watched from how they behaved sexually. Dealing with that is unimaginable to me. Have to say, I have never watched porn and I hope to maintain that stance forever.

    As for Alice, a friend just wrote that he will never read her again. I disagree. We have to remember, she was born in 1931, was a product of her time and place. What she did was very wrong, but that does not take away from her very great artistry.

  4. Beth Kaplan says:

    And on another note: Hooray France!!

  5. Alan Millen says:

    I read the CBC recycling of the Globe and Mail piece yesterday morning and have been trying (struggling) to process it ever since. The “taint” reference in your blog parallels my own feelings at this point. The mother/daughter estrangement saddens me greatly. Fie on the manipulating step-father.

  6. Beth Kaplan says:

    Yes, Alan, the stepfather is getting a pass as the focus is all on Alice’s misdeeds at the moment. There are varying degrees of villains in this story, but he is at the top of the list. What a creep.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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