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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A striking fraud; books leaves many questions unanswered, April 8, 2012
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This review is from: The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception (Hardcover)
First I must say this was a captivating and well-crafted story that I devoured in one sitting.

When you read the first two-thirds of this book it's as if you are reading the story of an incredibly lucky and heroic 9-11 survivor. However, all along, you know how the story ends: she is a total fraud. The last part of the book tells how the whole thing unraveled and how her deception was exposed, but the central question remains unanswered: Why did she do it? I believe the writers of the story tried to get that answer, but like everyone else who reported this in the news, they failed. The simple reason: Tania Head, the person at the center of the storm, isn't talking. That leaves reporters able to check statements and facts, but not motivations. Still, it is a remarkable tale of a brazen deception that went on for five years in the public eye.

The details that unfold in the telling of this story are truly shocking; the breadth and complexity of her deception is quite remarkable. But why?

There have been many newsworthy allegations of fraud in literature in recent years. In every case, critics allege that the perpetrators did what they did for financial gain. The embellished story sold a million books, or made the writer rich. There is an obvious motive, and in most cases, the perpetrator tells his side of the story at some point. With this story, there is no evidence of any financial gain. And the perpetrator will not speak. So we are left with no answers.

One thing that strikes me as strange is that Tania Head seems to have appeared out of nowhere, all by herself, in 2003. How did she get to be forty-some years old with no "life story?" We heard about the made-up husband, but where are her real family and friends? With the exception of new friends - those she made through the 9-11 survivor's group - she does not seem to have any. We heard about the fake Harvard degree, but where are her real friends from her real college? Where are the people who knew her as a child, and followed her into adulthood? How could a person who became as visible as her not have all those things?

Perhaps that is the unspoken secret here. Maybe the whole deception was a way for someone who had no friends and no community to imagine a place for herself where she'd be welcome. If so, it sure came to a tragic end. I wish we knew.

John Elder Robison
NY Times bestselling author

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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 13, 2012 4:03:14 AM PDT
goldpet66 says:
Wonderfully written review, which asks the same question we all wish we could ask Tania: Why? and secondly: How? I will be ordering this book shortly because I find the story of a woman who would perpetrate such a heinous fraud, utterly fascinating. Thank you for heightening my interest in reading this book.

Posted on Apr 21, 2012 9:13:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 21, 2012 9:15:33 AM PDT
There is a simple explanation for this fraud to take place: very few people cared about the actual survivors. They represented nothing and the lethal, devastating nature of the attack meant that victims were killed or escaped unscathed. Little middle ground and even less material for survivors to entertain the world with. After the tragedy, all attention was focused on the fallen firemen and police officers. The survivors had little of the spotlight, so, mrs Head easily flew under a radar nobody was monitoring.

That's all there is to it.

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 5:19:47 PM PDT
I agree, John. I think the very nature of Ms. Head's evasive nature leaves us scratching our head, going huh? Angelo tried to get her to talk and I felt his frustration over the two instances when he saw her in NYC after she was exposed. Like us, he wanted to understand but she wasn't about to admit fault. I was hoping by reading the NY Times article online that a psychologist would have been interviewed to give us some insight.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012 4:21:26 PM PDT
Anne Salazar says:
Probably - I'm sure - I think - there is not a straight forward answer as to Why this happened, and also How it got past All of the so-called investigative journalists in NY.... I am also wondering if the story of Tania Head or whatever her name is might someday be fleshed out in a more psychological fashion, or do we just have to live with the fact that fakers, liars, megalomaniacs, narcissists, etc., live among us and lie in wait for the next good story? These are indeed scary times, and when her mother comments on her behavior, I had a flashback to a Twilight Zone episode.

Posted on Sep 30, 2013 7:19:15 AM PDT
I watched this video numerous times after seeing it initially and learned new things each time I viewed it. I was so shocked by this woman's story that I immediately bought the book and read it in one day. I wanted to know more about the other survivors and their WTC story. This was an amazing story and what I found out later, is that the director was an actual friend of this woman while this fabrication unfurled. So many people involved with the 9/11 community were affected by this shocking revelation. Other reviewers gave it a lower review because they fault the director for not answering "why" she did this. This man was her friend initially and even he could not get an apology or an explanation why. Sometimes in life we never know the "why", the only thing we can control is how we react to it. You realize after watching, why she probably did this. Tania was looking for intrinsic validation after the drama in her immediate family broke her heart and destroyed her life. A prime example of how a small lie can grow to something way bigger than we can ever control.
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