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The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception
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The Woman Who Wasn't There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  2,024 Ratings  ·  412 Reviews
The astounding story of Tania Head, whose heartrending account of surviving the World Trade Center attacks made her a celebrity—until it all turned out to be an elaborate hoax.

It was a tale of loss and recovery, of courage and sorrow, of horror and inspiration. Tania Head’s astonishing account of her experience on September 11, 2001—from crawling through the carnage and c
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by Touchstone
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May 29, 2012 Maciek rated it really liked it
This short book which can be read in one or two sittings, though the story it describes is anything but short: the astounding story of Tania Head, the woman who on 9/11/2001 was at the 78th floor of World Trade Center 2 (The South Tower) when United Airlines 175 hit that floor, making her one of the very few who survived the direct impact. Badly burned on her arm, she managed to escape ftom the tower, crawling through rubble, witnessing the horror first hand. Her fiance, Dave, didn't make it: he ...more
Anita Dalton
Aug 10, 2012 Anita Dalton rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, hoaxes
This book was sort of entertaining but at the end of it all, the authors knew nothing about Tania Head other than that she decided to play a 9/11 victim and tell all kinds of unlikely lies. These lies brought her to the forefront of the 9/11 survivor movement and made her a star of sorts.

The book explains what she did and how a handful of people became her pets as she scammed and lied, but at no point does this book ever explain Tania Head. We ended up knowing remarkably little about her real l
Jul 09, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
Recommended to Carol by: BookPage
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of those OMG books. All I can say is it's a good thing that I knew the outcome going in.

I'm giving this 4 stars but this is not a story that warrants "like" I'm not going to say anything more but would love to read or discuss this book with a group. This would allow an exploration of the psychological make-up of the people whose stories are told.

One thing I really liked about this book was how the authors laid out the story. They could have chosen to do it in a far different way. I
Claire Cameron
Sep 16, 2013 Claire Cameron rated it liked it
Interesting account of the story, but it stopped short of delving deeper into the psychology of lies. This was not the intention of the authors to do so, rather it is what I would have been interested in. It is certainly a page turner. I read it in one sitting.
I found that there was much more to this than a simple story of deception. It addresses so many other phenomena that we have given names and attributed qualities to and are unable to see as anything else than what we know.


In a world of internet and virtual communication, our perception of reality has been changing at a fast pace. But an invented reality that is incorporated into actual reality is a concept that leaves many of us aghast. It is called deception
May 08, 2012 Mjdrean rated it it was ok
I was about to give this book 3 stars until I realized it wasn't the writing I didn't like--- it was the woman in the book. The writing is worth 4 stars. The woman needs, needs? Needs everything, a spanking, a psychiatrist, a man, a year in jail, an intervention, a reality check. She doesn't need gall. There were so many victims from 9/11 and now she's left those victims victimized all over again. Conning runs in her family evidently, her father and brother spent time in a Spanish prison for ...more
Maureen Timerman
Apr 16, 2012 Maureen Timerman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
What a compelling heart-wrenching story. You feel the pain that Tania Head experienced. Her world fell apart on the morning of September 11, 2001, she almost lost her own life, and she did loose her beloved Dave, her husband/fiance. She recounts her horrific tale many times in this book, how could you survive all that she has lost?
You hear about the angel in the stair-well, with the red-bandana that helps save her life. She in turn helps fill in a void in his parents life, and brings them some f
May 18, 2013 Donna rated it it was ok
This is a fascinating story, and in the hands of better writers it could have been a great book. Instead, it's a lumbering linear narrative which gets more tedious the longer it goes on. We know going into the book that Head was a fraud, but there's no insight into WHY Head needed to insert herself into the 9/11 tragedy, nor any investigation into the life she was actually leading while she hoodwinked everyone. If she wasn't working for Merrill Lynch as claimed, just what was she doing? Did she ...more
May 28, 2012 Debbie rated it really liked it
This was a somewhat difficult book for me to read since I had worked in the World Trade Center and know people who died that day. I was not there on September 11th, but I counseled people who were - and largely because of my work with survivors, I was interested in this story.

I found it to be much better than the documentary. This book is riveting, and - though it covers a span of several years and contains a lot of details - it's a pretty fast read. There is no answer to the question of why Tan
Apr 06, 2012 Patty rated it liked it
I was disappointed that most of the book details her lies, delusions, manipulations and fabrications, and only one chapter tells you the truth about the woman. I wanted to understand better who she is, and why she did it, as well as how she could get away with it for so long. It needed an extra chapter at the end to explain that.
Mar 30, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, dtb
Two years after the attacks of 9/11, a survivor named Tania Head started posting to survivor's forums online. She was one of only 19 people who had been above the point of impact in the South Tower of the World Trade Center and survived. Her remarkable story of escape -- her arm nearly torn off, her assistant decapitated, the fireman who led her to safety as the tower collapsed, her days of unconsciousness in a New York City burn unit -- was made all the more heartrending by the fact that her ...more
Sep 30, 2014 Tami rated it it was amazing
Unbelievable!! Incredible! What the??!!?? I couldn't put this book down.

Not knowing the background or having heard anything about the story, I was taken in and couldn't believe the ending, even knowing the title of the book!! The authors tell this tale so clearly.

It's the story of a woman, Tania Head, who claimed to be in the towers on 9/11, her harrowing rescue and will to survive, the loss of her husband in the other tower and her struggle to live afterwards. She builds a foundation for Surviv
Apr 22, 2012 Jae rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
I found this to be a very bizarre book. Not bad, but not at all what I was expecting given the title and the promotion around it. What I expected was a story, from the journalists' point of view from beginning to end, about the unmasking of a faker who for years had pretended to be a 9/11 survivor: a depiction of exactly what they did to uncover her deceptions, descriptions by her one-time friends how it felt to be betrayed by her, philosophical discussion about whether she was a typical "con ...more
Alex Johnson
Dec 03, 2012 Alex Johnson rated it it was amazing
Wow, I literally devoured this book in an afternoon. An amazing true story about Tania Head, a woman who said she was on the 78th floor sky lobby in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11 when it was struck literally head on by one of the hijacked planes. While she manages to extraordinarily survive, her fiance dies in the North tower. The book weaves her story from the genesis of her writings on online support groups for the forgotten victims of 9/11, the survivors. As Tania makes ...more
May 14, 2012 Sera rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sera by: Book Page Magazine
Shelves: non-fiction, library
Interesting story about a woman who successfully faked being a survivor of 9/11 for 5 years. Excellent depiction about the rise of the survivor movement generally after the tragedy had occurred, and I found the story of "the woman" to be quite fascinating, because I couldn't believe that she was able to perpetrate the hoax for so long.

My only criticism of the book is that we didn't get to know "why" she did it. Was it a result of self-narcissm? Well, sure, but I was really hoping that there wou
Sep 28, 2012 Robin rated it really liked it
Wow, this was one roller coaster of a read and compelling narrative nonfiction! My first thought when I finished this fascinating story was "give this woman an academy award!" as she was very convincing as someone who had undergone a horrendous experience, and how she kept it up for over five years is pretty amazing.

The lack of one star is because I was disappointed that there wasn't more about who Tania really is or exactly what she was doing on September 11, 2001 (this was the compelling part
Dana ****Reads Alot****
Wow!! It is the only word I can come up with right now. I saw a documentary on this awhile ago and I saw there was a book and I really wanted to read it to get into Tania Head's mind to understand why she did what she did. She had a very good upbringing living a lavish lifestyle but sadly she was tormented by others in school about her weight so she had a very big imagination that she escaped to. Still no excuse for her awful behavior of her treatment of her friends in this book. She was ...more
Apr 12, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
I was awake until the wee hours reading the disturbing account of a woman who deceived Giuliani, Pataki and countless others about her experience as a World Trade Center 9/11 survivor. What makes the account so intriguing for me is the fact that she worked tirelessly as well as effectively on behalf of her 9/11 survivors' group.

This scheming individual made certain her story far outstripped other survivors' accounts in its scope and magnitude. Others who were genuinely suffering from their exper
Mar 25, 2012 Deb rated it really liked it
Two years after the terrible events of 9/11, Tania Head joined the together with other survivors to create the World Trade Center Survivors Network. Her story was exceptionally compelling--not only had she lost her husband in the North Tower that terrible day, but she herself barely survived as the second plane crashed into the South Tower where Tania and her co-workers were trying to evacuate from the 78th floor sky lobby. Burned, her arm almost torn off, Tania managed to survive and became the ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I enjoy reading a good book of fiction, but I find myself most interested ini real-life stories which you can almost not believe are true. I found myself somewhat mesmerized by this true-life tale of deceit which in the end leaves so many unanswered questions--not the least of which is why??? We are left perplexed as none of the traditional motivations hold the answer. Part of the intrigue of this story is the constant push and pull of Tania's willingness to share her story and then shriveling ...more
Karen & Gerard
May 22, 2012 Karen & Gerard rated it it was amazing
The Woman Who Wasn't There--The True Story of an Incredible Deception by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. tells the story of a woman who lost her husband on 9/11. He was in one tower, she the other. She was able to help people out of harms way and befriended them. She joined and then took charge of the survivors Network, giving of her time and money and was always there for her fellow survivors. She was admired and gave back to New York by doing many acts of kindness. Then ending ...more
Lauren Milligan
May 18, 2012 Lauren Milligan rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Tania Head is a deplorable, shocking and fascinating person. In addition to her story, I was also drawn in to the community of survivors that developed after 9/11, and how they organized themselves for the memorial and recognition that they truly deserve. The events that unfold in this book are outrageous, angering and heartbreaking, but there is also a thread of uplifting hope woven throughout. Will Tania ever be held accountable for her actions? I doubt it, and it probably ...more
May 30, 2012 René rated it liked it
A very weird, sad, and enraging story. I never heard about this woman before spotting this book in the new books section at the library and flipping through it. Yet right off the bat you can smell something rotten in her story. This is an easy and engaging read. I appreciated that the authors devoted some time to the feelings and perspectives of the other 9/11 survivors who got conned by this woman. Their stories, even offered as side stories in this book, gave me more insight into the ...more
Apr 20, 2012 Naomi rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow...just when you thought some people couldn't figure out new ways to be skeezy, a book comes out proving me wrong. Once I was finally able to sit down and start reading it, I couldn't put it down. I wanted to make sure that I read this as a companion to the Investigative Discovery show that is being reaired Saturday morning because I was sure that the book would give insight that the special wouldn't have and I am sure that I am right because this went deeper into actions of Tania ...more
John Marr
Sep 15, 2013 John Marr rated it did not like it
My by chance 9/11 observance volume looked promising: a high profile, highly vocal "9/11 Survivor" (gag!) is unmasked as a fraud. It's a great story and the writing is good, but apparently no one involved with this project realizes that the most intersting part of this story is the woman who committed the fraud! Instead, the 90%+ of the book is about Tania Head's fake survival story and very real rise to the top of the survivor movement, with only a few pages tacked on at the end about the real ...more
Jamison Doran
Apr 16, 2012 Jamison Doran rated it liked it
Wow. I'm not sure what else to say about the disgusting display of deception illustrated in this book by "Tania" Head.

I finished the book in less than a day, and to say it was a quick read would be an understatement.

While I certainly enjoyed the book, I wish more time had been given to the unraveling of "Tania's" story. I also took issue with displaying "Tania" has a sympathetic figure. She isn't and she doesn't deserve our sympathy for her lies and deceit. She should seek mental help, as I hate
Amy M
Oct 29, 2012 Amy M rated it really liked it
An absolutely incredible tale of tragedy, deception and healing. We are all so familiar with the story of 9/11, but to tell people you were there when you weren't?? Who could be so bold! Yet "Tania Head" was, and this is the story of how she deceived all of America for years. A quick and unbelievable read - yet every word is true (or is it??).
Apr 10, 2012 Angela rated it really liked it
Equal parts fascinating and horrifying. While the cover essentially gives away the huge deception alluded to on the inside flap, the narrative doesn't suffer at all for knowing the outcome. If anything, knowing exactly what Tania's secret is as you follow the events just added to my incredulity that this could actually happen.
Jul 06, 2014 P rated it it was amazing
We all know there are bad people in this world. Some of the worst are those who exploit others' tragedies and/or take advantage of those who are most vulnerable. "Tania" Head tops this list for sure. This well written account tells an unbelievable story of deception, selfishness and arrogance. Disturbing and hard to put down.
Jul 12, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was ok
This was a fascinating story and, ultimately, I am glad I read it, but I found myself skimming through a lot of it and could probably have done with an extra-long Dateline Special on it instead of an entire book.
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52 weeks, 52 books: Week 2016.11: The Woman Who Wasn't There 1 24 Mar 11, 2016 06:58AM  
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Robin Gaby Fisher is a news feature writer for The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey's largest daily newspaper. She specializes in telling stories about regular people living through extraordinary circumstances. She has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, in 2001 and 2005. She has been the recipient of the National Headliner Award and the Nieman Foundation at ...more
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