Sunday, December 8, 2019

If You Tell

If You Tell by Gregg Olsen
Thomas & Mercer: 12/1/19
eBook review copy; 428 pages
ISBN-13: 9781542005234

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen is a very highly recommended true crime story of an abusive, murderous dysfunctional family. This is a difficult novel to read as it depicts a tyrannical woman and the horrible control, abuse, and torture she inflicted on others.

In Raymond, Washington, Shelly Knotek ruled and controlled her third husband, Dave, and her three daughters through her words and abuse. Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek experienced, witnessed, and, ultimately, survived their mother's horrific control, degradation, torture, and physical and mental abuse of her whole family and two other adults. They endured belittling, verbal abuse, numerous beatings, control of bathroom usage, forced naked time, being hosed off outside, and bleach baths, to just name some of the torture. "Shelly was Cujo. Freddy Krueger. The freaky clown, Pennywise, from It."

In telling of their horrific abuse, Olsen talked to the three sisters, Dave Knotek, and their grandmother, Lara. The experiences of the girls are told in short chapters, covering Shelly's problems and indications of her mental illness from a child to adulthood. This is not an examination of Shelly's mental illness. It is a compelling account of the survivors. This is the story of the girls, what they endured, observed, and how they finally managed the fortitude to go to the authorities and tell them the horrors of their life with their mother.

Once I started reading this account, even though I knew the girls survived, I had to finish it. I had to see how the girls escaped. It is much to my chagrin that no one from the public schools noticed a problem until much later and then let it go when they talked to one of the girls and she denied it. What would they expect from an abused child? And when Nikki and Lara actually told the police, the first time, the investigation was not pursued. It wasn't until the older sisters discovered Tori was being abused that they tried to get the authorities involved again, with the backing of their grandmother, Lara.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer.

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