Saturday, March 18, 2017
The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception
Rating: 3.5 Stars
This will undoubtedly be one of my shortest reviews, because I do not want to give this woman any more attention than she has already received. She makes me absolutely sick, and the depth of her deception is astounding. There is also a Netflix documentary by the same name to coincide with the book, which I watched a few years ago that is equally as infuriating, given what we are talking about here: claiming to be a survivor of the worst attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor. AND, not only making that claim, but perpetuating the lie for YEARS and becoming the face of the survivors' groups. Perhaps I am too bold, but there is a special place in Hell for people such as this.
You might have read other reviews I have done of other books related to September 11th. This was an event that impacted me very deeply, despite being halfway across the country from where any of the events took place. But it occurred in the first weeks of my freshman year of college, where I was hours from my family, at a time when I was already dealing with a lot of change. That is one of the reasons I will not even name this woman who conned so many people. I know that, though it impacted me a great deal, that is nothing in comparison to the men and women who survived, and the loved ones left behind of those who did not. I could not for one second even entertain the thought of doing what this woman did, claiming to be a survivor of the 78th floor sky lobby, where Welles Crowther rescued many when he did not have to. He could have walked down those final steps and out into the rest of his life. He chose to return to certain death, trying to save as many people as possible from the same fate. To know that this woman met with his family, told a story full of lies, a story that was not hers to tell, makes me sick. There is a section devoted to just that meeting between her and the Crowthers and I can't even imagine the pain it caused his family to later find out she was a fraud. Of course, they still had the truth from others who he HAD truly rescued, but it must have felt like such a betrayal that someone who had not even been in the country at the time of the attacks would take something so personal and make her own game out of it.
The read itself was quick, and often punctuated with recreated conversations, something that bothers me so. The writing is fine, but nothing spectacular - which seems odd considering Fisher has been nominated for a Pulitzer twice. Yet this kind of 'narrative journalism' is exactly what she teachers at Rutgers so, there you go I guess. The story itself begins with us first introduced to the woman and her lies as though it is factual, as though she is simply retelling the same story that she's told so many times to fellow survivors. In fact, unless you did not know the premise of the book or who she is, you might think what you are reading did in fact happen. It would be very easy to get caught up in her story, though one would also start to poke holes in it when looking at the whole picture, much like those around her did when everything started to unravel.
While the strength of the book is that we have the complete story she wove together, her entire pack of lies laid out for everyone to see. The unfortunate part is that there is no answer as to why she did it, what made her con so many people already in such deep, unending physical and/or emotional pain. Part of me doesn't care and hopes that the remainder of her life is not comfortable in any way. Another, smaller part though, needs to understand what could possess someone to hijack the stories of others and use it for her own gain. But I don't understand that level of malevolence, and I never will.