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Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope [Kindle Edition]

Dan & Susie Van Ryan , Colleen Newell , Whitney Cerak , Mark Tabb
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
Kindle Price: $10.37
You Save: $5.62 (35%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

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

From 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.

About 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).


Product Details

  • File Size: 642 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1439153558
  • Publisher: Howard Books; 1st edition (March 25, 2008)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015DRPB8
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,723 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read March 29, 2008
By MommaT
Format:Hardcover
I couldn't put this book down. It was such a compelling read that I kept turning page after page wanting to know what came next...eventhough I already knew how it ended. It is beautifully written, almost like reading a fiction book, and yet, of course, frightenly real. It is tragic that this actually happened, but I'm thankful to each family that they have chosen to tell their story. To share with us the grace and mercy, and abundant love that these two families have for one another. They have been a wonderful example of how we, too, can love and forgive, and have compassion towards one another when life doesn't play out how we would like. This book makes me want to live a deeper faith-filled life and always love and have faith...no matter what!
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585 of 696 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Different Point of View April 14, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
At the time I am writing this review, I see there are no reviews lower than a "5". For those of you who want a more objective view, or those who want a different point of view from a person who isn't an evangelical Christian, this one is for you.

Like many readers I was mesmerized by this story, first hearing of it when it happened and then more recently when it received more media attention on Dateline, Oprah, and via People magazine coinciding with the publication of the book. How could this have happened? How did the families react? How is Whitney doing? All these questions were answered by the media yet I wanted to know more and was glad to see the book was available for download on my Kindle. The Van Ryns and Ceraks seem like such nice people who are truly living their faith. Even in their grief how they were able to reach out to one another was really amazing. We should all learn from how they handled this tragic situation. That said, I wanted to know more about Whitney's brain injury itself and other than the first five weeks, the TBI portion was really not covered in very much detail.

These families are the epitome of Christian kindness. In a world where evangelical Christians sometimes have a negative connotation, where they say they pray but their actions seem to be full of hypocrisy, these people really do walk the walk and talk the talk. When I see those buttons that say "WWJD" these are the people who definitely I would think of.

However, although well written, the families use so much praise and prayer in their story that they end up alienating the readers who could really benefit from the message. Another sore spot with me was that they did a lot of bragging about the people that evidently became Christians due to this tragedy.
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hollywood could never have dreamed this up! April 4, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you can think what is the most outrageous unbelievable story you heard in your lifetime, it has to be this; the daughter you buried is not yours, and the injured daughter you nursed for five weeks was not yours. Although tragedies often evolve into miracles, this combination was never meant to be.

After a tragic accident on an Indiana highway, two blond girls of similar features were mistaken for one another. Whitney Cerak lived but was comatose, while Laura Van Ryn actually died, but was sent to the hospital to be treated. Misidentification! It was a result coroner's carelessness, and with that, unimaginable consequences upon two families.

The book, written with help of author Mark Tabb, starts with the section about the events of discovery, on the Cerak's part, that their daughter may be alive. Then, the story begins and reveals extensive detail of care by the Van Ryns who believed their daughter was alive, but was hurt badly. This is simple and non-pretentious writing, because it is merely your average God-loving families with deep religious faith.

Connecting with the readers
As you read, you begin to really understand the two families, their feelings, fears, surprises, stamina, hope, faith, etc. And if you are unfamiliar with their dedicated passages, you too, can learn and be inspired. Read Laura's sister Lisa's amazing faithful internet blog for updates and then you have Susie Van Ryn's touching prayer journal. Learn about the emotional passages said during the Cerak funeral.

Compassionate People
You will learn the true compassion of strangers, the offering of the Samaritan house to the Van Ryns; the couple who owned the pizza shop and brought so much pizza and bottled water to ICU.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and heartbreaking story March 27, 2008
Format:Hardcover
This story captured the nation and many of us wondered if this could happen to us or someone we love. The feelings, the emotions, sometimes these get over looked when hearing news stories, but this book brings us into the very improbably and unparalleled incident directly. My heart reaches out to these families and wish them the best as they move forward. Go beyond the news, the bits and pieces and learn the full reality of two families who are joined by both the deepest sorrow and confused joy at the same time. Like many others, I am still grasping to understand how anyone can handle such news and this really shows how strong and vital faith can be. Blessings.

Bryan Hutchinson
Author of:
One Boy's Struggle: A Memoir: Surviving Life with Undiagnosed ADD
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great book and inspiration
This book was very interesting and I loved the Christian references in it. Very poignant. To all of the families a big hug.
Published 1 month ago by Diana J. Lefler
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book.
Amazing story. Could not put this book down.
Published 2 months ago by Kara
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A true example about Grace in the face of adversity!
Published 2 months ago by Debbrin K. Lecki
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful and touching
Thank you for this beautiful blessing . All the glory give to God throughout this book to touched my heart. Thank you for sharing your story.
Published 2 months ago by Anya
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book. Loved it.
Published 3 months ago by Ronnie Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
well written
Published 4 months ago by Sandra M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly beautiful
This book is so heartbreaking I had a difficult time reading it. The book is also a blessing because of the faith these two families had.
Published 4 months ago by Teacher80
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Grace displayed
This story is bitter sweet. Story of tragic death and then a turn around. The story of the great highs and the very lows of two families. Read more
Published 5 months ago by retta
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Awesome book...very touching story...God brought the families through it all....
Published 5 months ago by Virginia L. Erdman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! So sad for the families
Great book! So sad for the families, you cannot put this down
Published 5 months ago by Robin Imoto
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More About 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.


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