If You Tell
Novels

If You Tell

If You Tell 

If You Tell from author Gregg Olsen is my latest recommended read. It is certainly a different kind of novel than I normally read, but it didn’t disappoint! Keep reading to learn more about If You Tell and my thoughts on this novel. 

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“For a time, Shelly perpetuated a kind of “you and me against the world” story line.” 

Gregg Olsen, If You Tell

About If You Tell 

After more than a decade, when sisters Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek hear the word mom, it claws like an eagle’s talons, triggering memories that have been their secret since childhood. Until now.

For years, behind the closed doors of their farmhouse in Raymond, Washington, their sadistic mother, Shelly, subjected her girls to unimaginable abuse, degradation, torture, and psychic terrors. 

Through it all, Nikki, Sami, and Tori developed a defiant bond that made them far less vulnerable than Shelly imagined. Even as others were drawn into their mother’s dark and perverse web, the sisters found the strength and courage to escape an escalating nightmare that culminated in multiple murders.

Harrowing and heartrending, If You Tell is a survivor’s story of absolute evil—and the freedom and justice that Nikki, Sami, and Tori risked their lives to fight for. Sisters forever, victims no more, they found a light in the darkness that made them the resilient women they are today—loving, loved, and moving on.

Thoughts on If You Tell 

“It takes only the mention of a single word to take her back to the unthinkable. 

“Mom.” 

Every now and then she literally shudders when she hears it, a visceral reaction to a word that scrapes at her like the talons of an eagle, cutting and slicing her skin until blood runs out.”  

Gregg Olsen, If You Tell

I understand and feel that quote to my core, because I feel that same reaction. I want to throw up when I hear the word mom, or hear her voice. It will physically make me ill every single time. 

If You Tell was a very tough read for me. Not because it was a terrible book, it was actually a good book. However, it is a true story, and that story triggered a lot of childhood memories for me, that I had long tucked away in a deep dark corner of my mind, and rarely visited. 

I was raised by a full blown narcissist for a mother and it was ugly. Oftentimes I’ve wondered over the years if I was actually a person to her, or simply a means of control. Children depend on their parents for survival. 

Children can’t run away. Husbands can, boyfriends can, friends can, and any adult can simply cut contact with a narcissist. But a child can’t. Who better to control than a child who can’t make changes or simply walk away? Control and attention are crucial to a narcissist. 

I still vividly remember the day I cut those ties, and it was like a hurricane had hit my house, as all hell broke loose. It wasn’t just my mother I cut ties with, this included my brother and a friend. They were all controlling and manipulative, and I finally had enough. I had never felt so free in my life, and I was never going back to the way things were. 

If You Tell made me revisit many of these memories and confront them. That is why this book took me longer to read than most. I needed some time to process how I was feeling after each reading session. It was a painful read in many ways, and I’m certainly glad my family wasn’t quite as bad as those in this novel. But it still wasn’t a remotely easy childhood, and even farther, as I was 30 when I cut ties with my family. 

Victim to Survivor 

One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the bond between sisters. That shift from victim to survivor once they are ready to speak out and tell their story. There is no one stronger than a victim speaking out and transitioning to a survivor. 

I always applaud anyone who has the strength and courage to make that healing journey toward that change. It isn’t easy, but it is something that should be heard and celebrated. 

Trigger Warning 

If You Tell should have a huge trigger warning attached to it, because it is a true story that visits some sensitive topics. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, suicide, murder, sexual assault, and more. 

Final Thoughts on If You Tell 

“I think as a kid I depended on her, her being my mom, I don’t think I ever thought I had any other options but to live with her. As an adult I kick myself for not doing something to help myself back then.”  

Gregg Olsen, If You Tell

Reading If You Tell was very difficult for me, but it was also healing at the same time. I’ve never been one to share many stories of my past and childhood, even with those I’m closest to. Every once in a while, but it is still just bits and pieces of a very ugly story. 

Reading a story where I could relate to what was happening was almost like a breath of fresh air. Like I’m not the only one who grew up with a narcissistic control freak for a parent, who demanded constant attention, and just wasn’t a good person. It gave me more strength and courage to open up, to acknowledge the things that happened to me, the abuse I dealt with, and the control I tolerated for so many years. 

Any time a survivor shares their stories, they gain both strength and courage, and it can help others along the way. That is what I took away from If You Tell, the capability to be more open about my own story and experiences. 

I highly recommend reading If You Tell. It may not be easy, but it is a story that deserves to be told and talked about. 

Afterword 

From Katherine Ramsland, PHD 

“From the inside, a violent home looks starkly different than it does to outsiders. Children who grow up with cold, narcissistic, or sadistic parents don’t know that a caretaker with the potential for extreme cruelty is not the norm. Even when they see a contrast in the families of friends, they’ve already been robbed of the ability to challenge parental authority. Instead of seeking help, they hunker down and adapt.”  

Discussion 

Have you ever read If You Tell or any other writing from author Gregg Olsen? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! If you’ve ever dealt with a narcissist or anyone who has been abusive, feel free to tell me how you survived. It may be another reader’s how-to guide. 

Looking for another great book to read? Check out my favorite novels and short stories!

About the Author 

I live in rural Washington State (about a mile as the crow flies from Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard’s infamous Starvation Heights sanitarium). My thriller, The Last Thing She Ever Did was an Amazon Charts bestseller. Lying Next To Me was a reader favorite, charting at No. 1 in the Kindle store and hitting the bestseller’s list at the Washington Post. 

My true crime book, If You Tell, found a home on Amazon Charts for more than 60 weeks. In fact, it was the bestselling Kindle ebook of 2020. I’ve been a guest on Dateline NBC, NPR, Good Morning America, The Early Show, FOX News, CNN, Anderson Cooper, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, Extra, Access Hollywood, 20/20, Snapped, Deadly Women, William Shatner’s Aftermath, and A&E’s Biography. 

Purchasing If You Tell 

If you are interested in buying the paperback version of If You Tell, click here.

Click here for the Kindle version.

Click here for my favorite Kindle I currently own. 

Amazon Notice 

The Reading Wife is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, at no added cost to you.

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