2017 to 2018 was the year of the grifter. Billy McFarland. Yvonne Bannigan. Anna Sorokin. The latter’s narrative may have been the most outrageous and unbelievable. It certainly seemed to keep Twitter enrapt throughout the summer of 2018. I was one of the spectators who incredulously absorbed coverage of the con artist, from both the perspectives of Rachel DeLoache Williams and Neff Davis. I devoured both and when the former’s book was released, I immediately digested it too.
It is impossible not to become invested in Williams’ experience. Though she does mention growing up with trappings of privilege – summer vacations at Kiawah Island, studying abroad in Paris, a connection to Graydon Carter via a university contact – it was impossible not to be on her side as she detailed her scrappy climb up the career ladder. Growing up with the cards stacked in your favor only goes so far, and it was impressed upon me that it was her ambition that pushed her. Having spent the majority of my time in a southern town only to later relocate to a city, I related to her; I particularly identified with her post-interview routine of a hand written thank you to both the hiring authority as well as human resources.
The book opens with what likely the most uncomfortable hours in Williams’ life; her phone call with an American Express rep with a southern accent communicated to the reader how dire – and dangerous – the situation in which she found herself was. Her book discusses what led her to that point.
As a reader, it is impossible not to reflect on at what point one would personally draw the line should one find herself in the author’s shoes. I grew up in what I believed to be a lower middle class family and as such dutifully managed my budget and lifestyle. If you live small and within your means, you will always feel rich. Still, I wondered if Anna was so skilled in the art of manipulation that it would be impossible to avoid being pulled into her orbit once identified as a mark?
My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams