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Biography & Autobiography Women

The Unravelling

Incest and the Destruction of a Family

by (author) Donna Besel

University of Regina Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2021
Women, Sexual Abuse & Harassment, Personal Memoirs
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
    List Price

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It’s the antithesis of why a wedding should be memorable. In 1992, at a sister’s nuptials, Donna Besel’s family members discovered that their father, Jock Tod, had molested their youngest sister. After this disclosure, the other five sisters admitted their father had assaulted them when they were younger and had been doing so for years. Despite there being enough evidence to charge their father, the lengthy prosecution rocked Besel's family and deeply divided their small rural community.
The Unravelling is a brave, riveting telling of the destruction caused by sexual assault, and the physical, psychological, emotional, financial, and legal tolls survivors often shoulder.
Donna Besel offers an honest portrayal of the years-long police process from disclosure to prosecution that offers readers greater insight into the challenges victims face and the remarkable strength and resilience required to obtain some measure of justice.


About the author

Donna Besel grew up in Whiteshell Provincial Park, and now lives on the Winnipeg River near Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba. Her writing has appeared in various publications and accumulated honours such as second place in Prairie Fire's writing contest, shortlist in CBC's Literary Awards, finalist in CBC's "Canada Writes" and first place in This Magazine's "Great Canadian Literary Hunt." She leads creative writing workshops for all ages and also instructs in the province-wide Artists in the Schools program.

Donna Besel's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"A shattering story and an essential one, told with consummate honesty and courage.” —Joan Thomas, author of Five Wives
"Donna Besel’s battle for acknowledgment of the evils that infected her childhood is illumined in The Unravelling by the sheer strength of her lucid, straightforward, voice. Besel carries us along an eye-opening journey, one of healing and remarkable endurance." —Harriet Richards, author of Waiting for the Piano Tuner to Die  
“Donna Besel is one of the bravest and most honest writers I know. The high quality of her prose provides the reader with safe entry to what is a harrowing but essential read. We owe her much gratitude for having the courage to write it.” —Gerard Beirne, author of In a Time of Drought and Hunger
“In The Unravelling, Donna Besel tells an important story with an unsentimental, fearless voice, of a family riven as much by the original crime as by the slow-turning wheels of justice.” —Denise Chong, author of The Concubine’s Children
“This is an astonishing, dramatic, and very brave memoir.” —Catherine Hunter, Department of English, University of Winnipeg
“With courage and conviction, Donna Besel details the crushing personal, familial, and social effects of justice denied when she and some of her siblings decide, as adults, to confront and expose their father as an abuser. Both conscientious record and cris de coeur, The Unravelling speaks powerfully for all victims of sexual abuse. In its honest acknowledgement of pain, it also offers pathways to healing and hope.” —Susan Olding, author of Big Reader

Other titles by Donna Besel