If You Tell by Gregg Olsen
Thomas & Mercer: 12/1/19
eBook review copy; 428 pages
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.
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
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.
My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer.