Questioning the Victim: A Closer Look at Rachel Williams’ Role in Anna Sorokin’s Elaborate Cons

My Friend Anna” is a gripping memoir that recounts journalist Rachel Williams’ experience befriending Anna Sorokin, the woman who would later be revealed to be a sophisticated con artist known as the “SoHo Grifter.” Between 2016-2017, Sorokin infiltrated elite New York social circles by posing as a wealthy German heiress named Anna Delvey. Through clever lies and manipulation, she swindled banks, hotels and acquaintances out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Williams meets Sorokin while working in the arts scene of Manhattan. Sorokin presents herself as a wealthy art patron, flaunting her supposed 60 million euro wealth. Williams is drawn in by Sorokin’s charisma, charm and lavish lifestyle funded by unchecked credit cards. They develop a close friendship with Sorokin increasingly relying on Williams both emotionally and financially. However, major cracks soon appear in Sorokin’s manufactured persona. “My Friend Anna” details how Williams continuously ignores signs that something could be “off” about her wealthy friend “Anna Delvey” until it’s almost too late.
The book is a page-turning expose of Sorokin’s elaborate deception abilities and her targeting of Williams as both a victim and unwitting partner in crime. Readers are placed in Williams’ perspective experiencing the events as they unfold in real-time. There are many moments in this story where you will stop and question why Williams isn’t asking more questions.
As a journalist, she failed to properly research Sorokin’s background claims. Williams also comes across as financially naive, not questioning Sorokin’s expenditures she regularly covered without expectation of repayment.
By the gripping climax, you will completely frustrated with the gullibility of Williams as she finds herself 60,000 dollars in debt for a luxurious trip to Morocco she could never afford, planned by Sorokin. Court documents revealed Williams knowingly used fraudulent credit cards, took out loans, and maxed her own cards to subsidize Sorokin. Williams admitted never really pursuing repayment from Sorokin, allowing debts to mount. But Williams doesn’t detail her role in Sorokin’s scheme to the extent of implicated herself. Instead, she goes to what reads as a painful extreme to paint herself as a victim.
Even without having known about the Anna Sorokin story from the media, it’s pretty clear early on that Anna is running some kind of game, even if you can’t quite figure it out. So when Williams learns the full scope of Sorokin’s cons, it’s quite obvious to the rest of us and Williams does really look like a naive idiot as she continuously voluntarily pays for Anna without verification of repayment.
As cracks develop in Sorokin’s story, my takeaway is that Williams gets scared straight. On Sorokin’s extravagant birthday trip to Morocco, Williams is “shocked” (and I use that word loosely) to discover she is responsible for the $30,000 hotel bill. In my opion, it’s only then that Williams realizes that Sorokin’s scheme may be a sinking ship that she’s going to have to find her way off of.
On the otherhand, the book explores the complex psychological elements that allowed Sorokin’s deceptions to succeed – especially in American society which longs for adjacency and access to the world of heiresses, privilege, exclusivity and wealth. There a lot of speculation that Williams saw Sorokin as a ticket to social climbing and declined to scrutinize her story closely as a result.
Overall, “My Friend Anna” is a fascinating true crime read highlighting how even sensible, educated people can fall prey to manipulative liars. While Williams questions her naivety, readers may find her complicity worth scrutinizing too. I know I did!