Author: Gregg Olsen
If You Tell was not the book I expected it to be. I don’t know why but even with the cover saying it was a true story I still thought it was going to be written in more of a fictionalized thriller kind of way. It was not. The book read exactly like an interview and played out in my head exactly like a true crime tv show. The entire time I picked up this book I was filled with emotions. I didn’t understand, and still don’t, how a mother could do that to her children. And how anyone could do what she and her husband did to another person.
This book review isn’t going to be quite like my others. In this review while I do what to talk about the book I really want to talk more about the story that the book portrays and how it makes me feel knowing that it happened. I will be giving details of what was talked about in the book. True crime is something I am very interested in so this book really made me think. I won’t be retelling the entire story, but to give my thoughts on the book I will have to retell a lot of it.
Please note that this story may be triggering for some people to read. This book focuses on abuse of children, adults, and unfortunately on the murder of 2 (possibly 3) people. Please use caution when reading this review. If you are triggered by these things I do not recommend that you continue reading.
A shocking and empowering true-crime story of three sisters determined to survive their mother’s house of horrors.
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
One thing I have to admit that I love about this book is that Gregg Olsen does not just focus on the sisters. He finds out exactly what Shelly (real name Michelle, which confused me a few times through the book) was like as a child, through her teenage years, and then up to the time of her arrest. This book, and story, is told from multiple different points which really adds to explain some of the things that don’t make a lot of since.
First and foremost my thoughts are with everyone affected by what Shelly and Dave Knotek did. For anyone to be put through what these people were put through is utterly horrible. I wish that she would have been found way before she was, and I am pissed at the outcome of her arrest. I also feel for the families of Kathy and Ron, who were never able to say goodbye to their loved ones. Kathy’s family did not know for a decade what happened to her. Shelly fabricated an entire story to cover up what happened and keep her family from coming around and asking what happened. Ron’s family was made to think that he hated them, and they didn’t want anything to do with them. Shelly drove a wedge between that family and that is just as bad as what she ultimately ended up doing to Ron. I also feel for Shane’s family. His grandparents and Nikki and Sami particularly. Yet another murder that was committed where the family was lied to and told that he just ran away and didn’t want to talk to anyone. Shelly Knotek was a sadistic woman and I feel for everyone that was affected with this.
Throughout the book I kept asking myself why the girls didn’t tell anyone what was going on. The further I got into the book the more I realized that they were afraid of Shelly and afraid of what she would do to them. You get a very good sense for the type of person Shelly was in this story. She had a way with talking people into doing what she wanted and into believing her convoluted lies that she told. From the time she was a young girl lying to the school about her father raping her, all the way up to abusing Kathy and telling her it was for her own good and that she loved her. I wish that the girls had just told. Things might have been stopped sooner, but based on what did end up happening when they finally told, I don’t know that anything would have changed. Other than them being tortured and abused worse than they already were.
Even after all of the true crime books I have read I still don’t know how people can do these things to people. She bathed the girls in bleach with a water hose for crying out loud. They had to ask to use the restroom, and they were often told they had to work out in the yard naked. Shane was forced to abuse Kathy and when he refused his punishment would be even worse. It seemed that Shelly would focus her abuse mostly on the oldest person in the household and then once she was done with them she would turn to the next person.
I also do not understand how you can manipulate someone into killing someone for you. I know that Dave said that he was just done fighting with her but that is now excuse. Even to this day he seems to think that Shelly did nothing wrong and that he was at fault. That blows my mind. No one should be able to have that much control over someone.
I am appalled by the way the police department handled this case. Nikki told them that her mother and father had killed Kathy and they did the bare minimum to look into it. When Sami wouldn’t return their calls they just stopped looking into it. They could have stopped what happened to Ron had they just listened. I don’t know what ever became of the police that worked on that case but I do hope that it served in a learning moment for everyone involved.
I am glad that Nikki and Sami decided to finally tell the police a second time. They were able to get their sister out, and though they couldn’t save Ron they saved anyone else from ebing manipulated by her.
To this day Shelly still claims that she did nothing wrong and she never abused her kids and that she was nothing but loving and helpful. I dont know how she was able to lie to herself for so long and make that seem true in her head. There is something very wrong with this woman. She will be released from prison in 2022, and I can only hope that she does not ever do this again, but because she thinks she didn’t actually do anything I could see it happening.
I gave this book a 10/10 because of how well Gregg Olsen told this horrific story. If you are a true crime fan then you will really enjoy this book. As I said in the beginning of the review there is a lot of very graphic details of the abuse that the people in this situation suffered. It vaguely reminds me of the book A Child Called It. That book is what started by love for true crime in general. I am not someone who is triggered by really anything but there were a lot of things in this book that were hard for me to read, which is why it took me a few days to finish it. I did have to put it down. Not because I did not like it, but because there was a lot that had to be processed and I needed to step away from the book before continuing it.
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