Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope

( 102 )

Overview

Meet Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak: one buried under the wrong name, one in a coma and being cared for by the wrong family.

This shocking case of mistaken identity stunned the country and made national news. Would it destroy a family? Shatter their faith? Push two families into bitterness, resentment, and guilt?

Read this unprecedented story of two traumatized families who describe their ordeal and explore ...

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Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope

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Overview

Meet Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak: one buried under the wrong name, one in a coma and being cared for by the wrong family.

This shocking case of mistaken identity stunned the country and made national news. Would it destroy a family? Shatter their faith? Push two families into bitterness, resentment, and guilt?

Read this unprecedented story of two traumatized families who describe their ordeal and explore the bond sustaining and uniting them as they deal with their bizarre reversal of life lost and life found.

And join Whitney Cerak, the sole surviving student, as she comes to terms with her new identity, forever altered, yet on the brink of new beginnings.

Mistaken Identity weaves a complex tale of honesty, vulnerability, loss, hope, faith, and love in the face of one of the strangest twists of circumstances imaginable.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a widely reported incident in 2006, Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak, students at an evangelical college in Indiana, and their families were victims of a ghastly mistake: the wrong girl was identified as the survivor of a car crash that claimed multiple lives. Only after five weeks, when the girl emerged from a coma, was the error discovered. The families and the survivor, Whitney, record their experiences in this heavily Christian account. Those seeking a tale of extraordinary emotions to match the extraordinary circumstances will be disappointed: both families are devoutly religious, and their faith is of the sort that does not admit a great range of feelings. Anger and anguish are quickly recast as professions of faith and celebrations of life in Christ. The Van Ryns immediately embrace Whitney and dismiss a reporter's suggestion of lawsuits. Nor are the Ceraks bitter, not even Whitney, who suffers brain damage. As they describe it, the story inspires others to adopt their beliefs. (Because of such conversions, Whitney writes that the five people killed in the crash have given their lives for Christ.) Readers who don't share the authors' faith may feel alienated, however much they admire the fortitude of the families.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439153550
  • Publisher: Howard Books
  • Publication date: 3/31/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 224,770
  • Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The Van Ryn family — Don, Susie, Lisa, Kenny, and Mark — of Grand Rapids, Michigan shares an avid interest in outdoor recreation. Don and Susie, married for thirty years, are leaving their chosen professions to dedicate themselves full time to an outdoor camping experience for youth in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Lisa is pursuing a career in physical therapy, and Kenny lives and works in Southern California. Mark is recently married and resides in the Detroit area.

Despite the sorrow surrounding the passing of their daughter Laura,the family continues to be involved in the work of their local church and community.

The Cerak family — Newell, Colleen, Carly, Whitney and Sandra Sepulveda — lives in northern Michigan, where Newell is a youth pastor and Colleen is a PE teacher and coach.

Carly graduated from Taylor University and has lived in Africa for the last six months starting a new ministry to street kids.

Sandra took a year from Grand Valley State University and joined with Invisible Children to bring awareness of the plight of children in Uganda. She is currently back at GVSU finishing her nursing degree.

Whitney is now a junior at Taylor University majoring in psychology. She is confident in God's healing and the revelation of the Holy Spirit in her life.

Mark Tabb has authored and co-authored over twenty books, including Living with Less, the Upside of Downsizing Your Life (B&H), and the 2004 Gold Medallion finalist, Out of the Whirlwind (B&H). He also collaborated with Stephen Baldwin on the New York Times bestseller, The Unusual Suspect (FaithWords). Mark is currently working with Alec Baldwin on his book, A Promise to Ourselves (St. Martin’s Press).

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Read an Excerpt

1

THE EXCHANGE

Colleen Cerak woke up with a start to the sound of the phone ringing. Her eyes could barely focus as she tried to make out the alarm clock on the nightstand. It was nearly two in the morning, Wednesday, May 31. When she finally reached the phone, she thought she recognized the voice on the other end as a man identified himself as the Grant County coroner. The same man had called five weeks earlier, telling her that Whitney, her eighteen-year-old daughter, had died in an accident along with three other Taylor University students and a university employee. That call also came late at night. Why would the coroner call me in the middle of the night now? she wondered.

"The county chaplain is monitoring this call," the coroner told her. Then he asked what struck Colleen as a very strange question. "Are you alone?"

"What? Yes. I mean no," she said. "Carly, my daughter, is home with me."

"Would you please ask her to listen in on this conversation?"

If she hadn't been so asleep, Colleen might have asked why it mattered if she were alone, and why the coroner had called at such an ungodly hour. But she didn't. Her body was awake, but her mind hadn't caught up with it yet. She climbed out of bed, walked across the hall to Carly's room, and woke her up. "I need you to listen in on this call. I'm going downstairs to get the other phone. Don't hang up," Colleen said.

Carly was sound asleep when her mother threw the cordless phone on her bed. "What? You want me to do what? Why?" Carly asked, but Colleen had already started down the stairs. Half asleep, but already panicking, Carly put the phone to her ear. She listened as her mother asked the man to identify himself again. The moment she heard him say he was the coroner, Carly felt sick to her stomach.

"We now know," the coroner said, "that the accident survivor in the hospital identified as Laura Van Ryn is not in fact Laura. This fact was confirmed earlier this evening through her dental records."

Carly listened upstairs while Colleen was downstairs on the main extension. Neither of them said a word, their minds unable to comprehend what they were hearing. Then the coroner dropped his bombshell. "We have reason to believe your daughter may be alive."

"No. No. That's impossible. We buried her," Colleen said. In her half-awake state, she thought the coroner was saying that Whitney had been alive when she was placed in her casket, meaning the family had buried her alive. The thought horrified her. The coroner quickly clarified what he meant. "We have reason to believe that the girl identified as Laura Van Ryn is, in fact, your daughter Whitney Cerak."

The moment Carly heard the coroner say that Laura was Whitney, she threw down the phone and stormed down the stairs. "No, no, no!" she screamed. "Hang up the phone, Mom. hang up! I can't believe someone would be so cruel as to pull a prank like this. This is the worst thing I've ever heard of in my life!"

"What did you say?" Colleen said to the coroner. She could hardly hear his response.

"Mom, listen to me!" Carly yelled. "There's no way that isn't Laura. Her family and her boyfriend have been right at her side for five weeks. Five weeks! Don't you think they would have noticed if it weren't Laura? A lot of my friends have seen her. Kelly was there! Mom, don't you think my own roommate would have noticed something as obvious as this!? Whitney doesn't look like Laura. Why would someone do this?" She began crying. "Mom, hang up the phone. Hang up, HANG UP!"

Finally Colleen asked the coroner, "May I call you back? I really need some time to think."

The coroner seemed taken aback by her question. "Mrs. Cerak, this is a very serious matter. We need you to bring your daughter's dental records to the hospital in Grand Rapids as quickly as possible so that we can make a positive identification."

"I understand that. What's your number there?"

"Mrs. Cerak!"

"May I please have your number?" Colleen's mind could not process what he was telling her; she was in shock. Maybe Carly is right. Maybe this is nothing but a cruel, cruel hoax. Once Colleen had the phone number, she hung up the phone and sank into her chair. Carly sat across from her on the sofa, fuming.

"Who could be so cruel?" Carly asked. Colleen didn't respond. She checked the phone number and discovered that the call had, in fact, come from Marion General Hospital in Indiana, the hospital to which Whitney's body had been taken on the night she died.

"That doesn't mean the call was real," Carly protested. She looked over at her mother. "Mom, you don't actually believe this garbage, do you?" She threw up her hands in frustration. In her mind, Carly believed she had to be the voice of reason in the family. Her father, a youth pastor, was in New York with a group of high school seniors for their annual graduation trip. With him gone, she kicked into full big-sister mode. "Mom, believe me. I know that the girl in the hospital is Laura, not Whitney. I know what I'm talking about. Who are you going to believe, your own daughter or some stranger making prank calls in the middle of the night!?"

Colleen didn't know what to do next. She hesitated to call and awaken her husband, Newell, when she didn't yet have any firm information. Going on this trip had been a hard enough decision for him. It was his first step toward something approaching normalcy in his job since they'd lost Whitney five weeks earlier. If this was in fact a hoax, Colleen saw no reason to make him suffer through it as well. Unsure of where else to turn, she called Newell's best friend and coworker, Pastor Jim Mathis, who had walked with the family through the tragedy of Whitney's death. "Jim, we have a situation here," she said, "and I don't know where else to turn. We just received a phone call..."

"A fake phone call!" Carly shouted in the background.

"We just received a phone call from someone claiming to be the Grant County coroner. He said..." — Colleen could hardly believe the words were coming out of her mouth — "he said that Whitney may be alive."

"What?" Jim said. "How?"

"I don't know. I don't even know if the call was real. Would you check it out for me? I don't think I can."

"Sure. What's the number?"

Five minutes later he called back and said, "It looks like we need to go on another road trip."

As soon as she hung up the phone, Colleen called the family dentist for Whitney's dental records, which he said he would bring over right away. Only then did she call her husband. The moment Colleen said his name, Newell knew something was wrong. "Not Carly," he said. "Please tell me that it's not Carly." With Whitney gone, he couldn't bear the thought of something happening to their only surviving daughter.

"No, no, no. Carly's fine. It's uh...it's about Whitney."

"What?"

"I just got a call from the Grant County coroner's office, and they think...they think Whitney may be alive."

"That's impossible," he said. "We buried her. She can't be alive."

"Let me talk to him," Carly yelled in the background and then grabbed the phone out of her mother's hand. "Don't believe any of this, Dad. The phone call said they think Laura is Whitney, but she can't be. My friends saw her. They know Whitney. Believe me, Dad, this is impossible!"

"I know, Carly. I know" was all he could say in response.

Colleen got back on the line. "Jim is going to drive us down to Grand Rapids so we can hand over Whitney's dental records to the hospital. I'm sure it's nothing but a wild-goose chase, but we have to go."

"Be sure to call me as soon as you get there," Newell said. Then he hung up the phone and tried to sleep, to no avail. His mind spun out of control as he lay in the dark. He replayed all that had happened since Colleen had first called him on April 26, 2006, and told him that Whitney had been in an accident. He had been away on a ministry-related trip that night as well. Since then he'd carried a hole in his soul that could not be filled. Yet it wasn't a grief without hope. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Whitney was in the very presence of God in heaven. Yet now the family was told she was not in heaven, but alive in a hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "Unbelievable," he repeated over and over.

As he tossed and turned in his bed, one thought raced through his mind: How can this even be possible? If a mistake had been made, someone would have noticed in the first couple of days. But five weeks? Five weeks?! Impossible. How could the Van Ryns not have realized this girl wasn't their daughter? She must be horribly disfigured, since it wasn't just the immediate family who would have to be mistaken. Her boyfriend and all of Laura's closest friends had also visited her in the hospital, and not one of them had alerted authorities that there might be a mistake. How could no one have noticed they had misidentified the person in that bed?

Neither he nor Colleen had seen Whitney's body after the accident. It had made sense at the time, but now a wave of self-doubt washed over him. We didn't want the image of Whit lying in a casket burned in our minds, he reminded himself. Colleen and I agreed that we didn't want that to be the first thing we thought of when we thought about her. Not once had they questioned their decision. Now, for the first time, Newell wondered how the authorities had identified the bodies at the scene of the accident. That opened the door for the biggest question of all: Could Whitney really be alive?

While Newell tossed and turned in bed at a campground in New Jersey, the rest of the family got ready for what Carly later called "the worst car trip of my life." Colleen told her, "You should pack some clothes to take with us. If this really is Whitney, we'll probably stay down there for a while."

Carly shot her mother a look. "Would you be realistic, Mother? I told you. My friends have been down there. They've seen her. They all know it's Laura. If it were Whitney, don't you think Laura's best friends would have noticed?"

"Carly, please, we just have to make sure. Okay?" Colleen said.

"We already know for sure," Carly said and stormed off. She refused to entertain even the slightest hope that her sister could be alive. If she did, and those hopes were crushed, it would feel like the night Whitney died all over again.

Colleen went downstairs and woke up Sandra, whom the family lovingly called, "the girl who lives in the basement." Sandra Sepulveda had moved in with the Ceraks during her sophomore year of high school after her family moved away from Gaylord. With time she became like another sister to Carly and Whitney. Colleen shook her and said, "Sandra, we've got to drive down to Grand Rapids. Right now. Tonight."

"What? Why?" Sandra said, still half asleep.

"The coroner called and told us Whitney may be alive," Colleen said. The words struck her as absurd even as they left her lips.

"What? How?" Sandra yelled as she jumped out of bed and raced up the stairs after Colleen.

"We don't know. That's why we have to go to GR," Colleen said. Sandra peppered her with questions, but all Colleen could say in response was, "I've already told you everything I know."

Colleen, Carly, and Sandra climbed in Jim's car and drove toward Grand Rapids, four hours away. No one said much of anything for a very long time. Carly sat in the backseat next to Sandra, still fuming. Finally she said, "What will the Van Ryns think when we come barging into Laura's room?"

"They aren't there," Colleen said. "I was told they left the hospital some time on Tuesday after the hospital confirmed the girl in the room wasn't Laura."

"What?" Carly's head spun. "None of this makes any sense. There's no way they could have gone this long thinking it was Laura if it wasn't her. No way." No one argued her point.

Silence filled the car for the next hour. By this time Carly had cooled off. Although she didn't want to talk about it, she'd spent that hour considering the news that the Van Ryns had ended their constant vigil. They haven't left Laura's side for five weeks. Why would they leave now? What if...? "Did they tell you why the Van Ryns left?" Carly asked, as if the earlier conversation had never ended.

"All they told me was the hospital now knows the girl in the room isn't Laura," Colleen said. "The Van Ryns left the hospital after dental records confirmed this fact. If it was Laura, they would still be there."

"That still doesn't mean that it's Whitney," Carly protested. "I can't believe it's not Laura, but if it isn't, it could be some random girl they put in her room by mistake." Even as she said the words, she realized how foolish they sounded. Carly didn't want to admit it, but she, too, had started to believe Whitney might be alive.

Colleen told the girls, "You know if Whitney is alive, Hollywood will have to make this into a movie." Everyone laughed, even Carly.

"And, if they do, Jennifer Lopez will have to play Sandra," Colleen joked. "After all, they're both Puerto Rican."

"I think Robert Redford will have to be Newell," Colleen said.

"Watch it, Mom. We know how you feel about Robert Redford," Carly joked.

"Stop it," Colleen laughed. "They'd have to have Kate Hudson play Whitney. I've always thought they kind of looked alike," Colleen said. "And Mel Gibson for you, Jim." Everyone roared with laughter when she said that.

Colleen, Carly, Sandra, and Jim pulled into the parking lot of Spectrum Health Continuing Care Hospital around seven in the morning. Two hospital employees met them and tried to explain the situation and then asked if the Ceraks had any questions. They had only one: Where is she? As the women led them down the hall, Carly began to shake uncontrollably. She could hardly breathe. Colleen led the way, with Carly and Sandra hanging on behind. Jim respectfully lagged back several steps.

When they reached the room with the nameplate "Laura Van Ryn," Colleen took a deep breath and pushed the door open slightly. Although the lights in the room were dim, there was no mistaking the girl lying on the hospital bed. Colleen let out a sigh of relief and whispered. "It's Whitney."

Carly lunged past her mother and rushed to her sister, with Sandra and Colleen close behind. The three of them started hugging Whitney and burst into tears. It really was her. Her blonde hair, her blue eyes, her nose, and the shape of her mouth; beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was Whitney!

Whitney slowly opened her eyes, wide and expressionless. Although her neck brace restricted her movement, she nodded her head yes over and over as her sister and mother repeated her name. Carly fell to the floor sobbing, her body unable to contain her overwhelming joy. The women who had escorted the Ceraks to Whitney's room rushed in and tried to quiet the three of them down. "She can't handle this much stimulation," they said.

"But my sister is alive. My sister is alive!" Carly said and the celebration continued.

Colleen pulled out her cell phone. She could barely see the numbers due to the tears in her eyes. "Newell," she said, "I'm standing here and it's Whitney. It really is Whitney."

Newell could not believe what he was hearing. He thought he must be dreaming. "Hang up the phone and call me right back," he said, just to make sure this was real. Immediately his cell phone rang again. "I'm standing here and she's as beautiful as ever," Colleen said. Newell fell to his knees, crying like a baby.

"What does she look like?" he asked. "Is anything wrong with her?"

"No." Colleen replied. "There's not a mark on her face. It's really her."

Then Newell heard a sound he thought he would never hear again. Through the phone he heard the daughter he believed he'd said good-bye to for the final time five weeks earlier say in almost a whisper, "I love you, Dad."

Mistaken Identity © 2008 Don & Susie Van Ryn and Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak

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Table of Contents

Prologue

1 THE EXCHANGE

2 APRIL 26, 2006

3 ICU

4 COMING TO GRIPS WITH A NEW REALITY

5 WAITING

6 COMFORT IN THE MIDST OF PAIN

7 FROM FORT WAYNE TO SYDNEY AND EVERY POINT IN BETWEEN

8 FIRST MILESTONE

9 "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WHITNEY"

10 TURNING A CORNER

11 A CELEBRATION OF LIFE

12 "HI"

13 "LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN"

14 WAKING UP

15 MISTAKEN IDENTITY

16 TELLING THE FAMILY

17 BACK FROM THE DEAD

18 HOPE IN TRAGEDY

19 AFTER THE HURRICANE

20 FAST FORWARD

21 MOVING AHEAD

Epilogue from Whitney

In Honor of Those Lost

Acknowledgments

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 102 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(60)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 103 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 4, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Jennifer Wardrip - Personal Read

    A very emotional and inspiring read, although there were times I was sidetracked by the religious references. I understand that both families used their faith to get them through this devastating time, but I didn't realize that was going to be the basis of the story when I started.<BR/><BR/>That said, though, this is a really good story. I recommend reading it along with Jacquelyn Mitchard's ALL WE KNOW OF HEAVEN, which, although not drawn specifically from this story, shares several similarities and is a wonderful book.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2009

    Unbelievable Mistake

    I'm in tenth grade and doing a book review for class. I read the book Mistaken Identity by Mark Tabb along with the Van Ryn and Creak family. It is a true story about some students and a staff member from Taylor University in upland Indiana who get in to a van crash.
    The van the students and the staff member were in end up getting into a very bad crash on I-69 in Michigan. After the crash, the cops came to the spot and there were bodies thrown all over the place, no one was by the van. The injuries were so bad people were unrecognizable. When they started finding the students, a girl in named Laura Van Ryn was rushed to the hospital. Her parents were called and they rushed to meet her there. But something happened that led to mass confusion and heart break for two families.
    Courage is one of the main themes of the book. Not just the courage of the people in the accident but the courage of the families involved. Each family went through traumatic circumstances that changed their lives forever. One of the main questions I had at the end was, how? How could this actually happen? It made me wonder has this ever happened before but was never figured out?
    I really liked this book, it was a very sad book and I could not believe the events that took place. I give this book a 5 star rating. If you like the books that get right in to it and is very sad and you feel like you are there with them then I recommend this book to you. If you do not like books that are like that then I do not recommend this book to you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    Cry every time......

    I have read this book more tham once and stil cry every time....its so good and ispirational!!!!!! I would LOVE to meet these families.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    Amazingly inspirational story

    Its amazing how these families delt with this tragidy! U would think someone would be pointing fingers at someone but they were all so understanding! I wish i could have the faith that these people have. They love god so much they won't even think badly of him for taing away thier daughters! I love this story its heartbreaking and amazing that it really happened. I recommend reading this one it really touch ur heart! (Make sure u have a tissue ready if u cry when reading, i balled!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2011

    Great read!

    I was so happy when this book came out and I immediately went and bought it. This story while heart wrenching, also fascinated me in a way I cannot describe. A very fast read and well worth the money.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2010

    What a disappointment!

    I sympathize with the grief and confusion of these two families and respect their deep religious beliefs as described in this book. However, aside from a very thin story line, none of the facts or implications of this case of mistaken identity are developed. Instead there are only endless descriptions of the grief and mourning of the family members and the large religious community to which they belong, interspersed with lengthy prayers and sanctimonious "letters" to the victims. It is all very repetitious and finally boring. The book seems to have been written more as a catharsis for the feelings of those involved rather than to inform a readership. Perhaps fundamentalist Christians will enjoy this book. For me, it was a waste of money.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2010

    If they had viewed the body, they may have known the truth that night

    Why did the Ceracks not want to view the body that had been identified at the scene as Whitney? These girls looked SO MUCH ALIKE! As a mother, I would HAVE to see for myself and KNOW it was my daughter. I would want to hold her hand one last time, stroke her hair, hug her, tell her I loved her, see her image just one more time. If that had happened, the Van Ryns would not have endured five weeks of hell sitting with a girl who was not their daughter, praying for her recovery when their daughter was already gone. It was finally Whitney's comments as she woke up that led to the suspicion that she was not Laura and finding out her true identity.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    what a story

    This book is well written and mesmerizing. It was a straight through read for me the first time, just to understand the facts. Now I am reading it again to fully understand what these two families, and their friends, have endured. It was not my intent to read a book about forgiveness, but rather curious after having seen the two families on Oprah. But, I can say this book has had an impact on my life I did not expect; I am changed for the better. For the first time in my life I have been asked to forgive someone and with the wisdom gained from reading this book, I was able to do so.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2009

    AMAZING FAITH!!

    These two families went through/are still going through the worst tragedy a family can go through. Yet through the good, bad, and ugly their faith was first and formost on their minds. They are a great example to those of us who may struggle w/ chronic illnesses, physical disablitis, financial or family problems that whiie our problems are nothing compared to theirs...we need to have faith through whatever we face - the good and the bad!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    read it

    this book gives you every kind of feeling you could ever feel it has happy hurt sad mad glad confused ect... it's a true story that makes you feel.... thankful for what you have..,...it makes you feel glad that maybe your community would act just as loving and kind hearted as theirs did.....AWESOME BOOK .....ENJOY

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    If you're doubting your Christian Faith...

    The families involved in this heart-breaking story will amaze you with the depth of their faith. Beautiful story. Realistic in its "happy-ending" as the survivor is upfront and honest in her struggles and emotions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

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    A Mom's Choice Awards Recipient!

    Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope is a recipient of the prestigious Mom's Choice Award. The Mom's Choice Awards honors excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. An esteemed panel of judges includes education, media and other experts as well as parents, children, librarians, performing artists, producers, medical and business professionals, authors, scientists and others. A sampling of the panel members includes: Dr. Twila C. Liggett, ten-time Emmy-winner, professor and founder of PBS's Reading Rainbow; Julie Aigner-Clark, Creator of Baby Einstein and The Safe Side Project; Jodee Blanco, New York Times best-selling Author; LeAnn Thieman, motivational speaker and coauthor of seven Chicken Soup For The Soul books; and Tara Paterson, Certified Parent Coach and founder of the Mom's Choice Awards. Parents and educators look for the Mom's Choice Awards seal in selecting quality materials and products for children and families.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    Inspiring story

    I was amazed how their faith and love truly helped them all survive this horrible event. It makes me want to get back in touch with God. A very positive read for such a sad story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    Amazingly lifting and touching

    Mistaken Identity is the most uplifting and most touching story ive ever read. ive never read anything like it. it really made me see just how blessed i am for all the wonderful things i have. i try not to take anything for granted and to be thankful for the joys i have in my life. after reading this story im even more thankful than ever. thank you for sharing your story with me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    AMAZING!!!!!!

    The novel Mistaken Identity is the true story of Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak. Laura and Whitney were both in a car accident on April 26, 2006. There were five lives lost in the tragic accident, including a girl identified as Whitney Cerak. There was also a young woman rushed to hospital, with severe head injuries, who was identified as Laura Van Ryn. Throughout a five week period the Van Ryns took care of the girl identified as Laura, but the more time they spent taking care of her the more different Laura became. Laura became more aware of her surroundings and began to talk and write; so the therapist asked Laura to write her name and she wrote Whitney.<BR/> This novel was so interesting once I started I couldn¿t put it down. There was never a dull moment throughout the whole story. I thought it was crazy how you can get two girls, which really don¿t even look alike, mixed up. I wish the book would have had the scene where the girls were identified because it¿s just kind of confusing that they can mix people up. I think that I also enjoyed this novel so much because I share the same beliefs as the Van Ryns and the Ceraks and I was just amazed at their faith in God. <BR/> The whole story of these two families is just amazing! Their faith in God is so strong it¿s unbelievable. I honestly think that I couldn¿t be that strong in that situation. They never questioned God they just knew that this was happening for a reason. I was inspired to never lose hope and to always trust God because no matter what happens if you trust Him you will make it through.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    My favorite book!!

    This was an amazing, inspirational book that showed the incredible faith of two families,the Cerak¿s, and the Van Ryn¿s. It was a true story about two girls involved in an awful car wreck. Throughout the entire book, it talks about the families of these two precious girls and what all they went through. It gave specific detail of the wreck and how one of the teenage girls, Laura Van Ryn, died. While the other, Whitney Cerak, was in a coma. During months of intense rehabilitation, the Cerak family took each day more and more as a blessing, and they grew stronger in their faith even through the hard times. It showed how both families dealt with this situation, and throughout the entire time, they counted on God. After months of grief, they soon find out there was a mistaken identity between the girls. <BR/> I absolutely loved Mistaken Identity for many reasons. I loved how it was so real, and I felt like I could relate with the two girls. I thought it was so neat how the book quoted the family, friends, and boyfriends of the girls. Even though it was sad to hear what they would say, it made me count my blessings even more each day. What I also liked about this book was the depth of faith in each family. It gave me a better understanding on life, and it just made me think. It gave specific details of stories about the families, and I enjoyed reading this book because it was a true story. <BR/> Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. However, the one thing I did not like about the book was that it was very sad and made me cry. During some of the book, I had to stop reading it because it was so emotional. On the other hand, most of the time I couldn¿t lie this book down because it was so intense and just amazing. Even though it was extremely sad and depressing, it still gave me a desire to live my life everyday like it¿s my last. This was by far my favorite book I have ever read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2008

    Two families bond throught tragedy, faith, and the miracle of life.

    I first came across this book while watching Oprah; I was hooked before I even opened to the first page. Two girls, who¿s identity¿s had been switched? One family grieving for the loss of their youngest daughter, when she¿s actually alive in a hospital only miles away? And another family, spending only every waking minute caring for, and loving the girl they believe to be their daughter, only to find out the girl in the bed isn¿t who they think she is. This story began on a seemingly normal April day, a van full of nine students and staff from Taylor University, were heading back to school from a mission trip. And in seconds everything changed. A truck hits this innocent blue van along I-69, resulting in one of the most violent accidents imaginable. With four people already pronounced dead at the scene, a young woman first identified as Laura Van Ryn is airlifted to a nearby hospital. For five weeks this young girl is cared for by her family, who never leave her side. Meanwhile, The Cerak family is informed of their daughter, Whitney¿s, tragic death. As any family just told of their child¿s death would be, they begin grieving, praying this isn¿t true. Through this book, I see how both the Cerak family and the Van Ryn family, rely on their faith in God. Faith and prayer become huge themes, and are very important to these families, especially while they are going through this unimaginably difficult time. I liked the message this book brought, how both these families believe in something more powerful then they are. Though I did have some dislikes; in some places the writing was a little choppy and I couldn¿t quite follow what was happening. You should read this novel because it shows how one family¿s loss is another¿s gift. Overall I give the novel Mistaken Identity four stars, though it is quite tragic, it also shows us that death is not the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2008

    Two Families Captivating Story

    Mitaken Identity tells a story of two families tragic story and how they overcomed it. The Van Ryn family and the Cerak family, both of there daughters ended up in a horrible car crash. One lived and one died with 5 other students. Then they figure out that the girl who lived isnt really who they think it is. In this story it tells a lesson on how to believe in God and not to give up hope, when it seems like all is falling apart. These to families went through some ups and downs, but in the end got through it all. This book is really good if you are looking for a story that will inspire you and show you how to get through tough times. The only problem about this book is there is so much detail and how they are doing and whats going to happen. I think they could have left somethings out. I would recommended this book to high schoolers and older, it is very inspiring non fiction book that will take you on a journey and make your heart ache, and fill with joy all through the book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2008

    Over Dramatized

    I was very disappointed in this book. I had read the article in People magazine, that was mentioned in the book and instantly wanted to read this story. I was very surprised how the story was so boring. I am not saying the situation itself and the horrible things they went through, but these people as the tone of the book. Not to get all mean, but all they talked about was God through the whole book. And they kept saying they were not mad. Hello that is so fake. I was mad when I watched my Grandpa die from cancer and just a few months before that he lost my Grandma. I attended 3 friends funerals from car accidents within 3 years. I do not believe that they were not mad. I felt the story was very sad. How did this happen? And why did these families not to have a lawsuit, if not for money, but so the standards to identify would be tougher so this could not happen again? I cannot figure this out...this just seems weird to me. I feel for the families nonetheless of everything involved. I also did not find this inspiring besides Whitney's recovery. I felt too much of this book was fake and would not read it again.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2008

    Amazing

    this book was amazing i almost cried half the time as i read this book it was sad and very enjoyable i can't beleve god people these peole in such horrorbut it's just amazing how the did not turn bitter there emotions turnd into love for a child that they thought and felt was there own i love how they define the feeling and pain both familes went through this book was inspiring and gave me hope that good is our savior in christ's name i loved this book it rocked and i just want to see the DVD to see and feel again what the familes went through i love this so much i'm in the middle of reading it again i felt like the family touched my soul and that they were part of my own family the tenciclly are and i hope whitney is okay after such a horrendous accident

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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