Customer Reviews: Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope
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on March 29, 2008
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 matter what!
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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. You will hear how the Van Ryns were surprised their neighbors cut the grass while the family was bedside to Laura. You will learn how the Ceraks through their grief received so many flowers, food, cookies, notes, cards and how they sat and listened intently to each of many phone messages offering comfort.

False Parents
I had to laugh at what Don Van Ryn said when he learned that his Laura referred to them as false parents. With that, you feel compassion for this family as they wrestled with the phrase "false parents."

And then, share in the exchange of discovery that changed their lives, and the miracle of the Ceraks that could only be dreadful tragedy for the Van Ryns.

This is a wonderful story that Hollywood could not have dreamed up! I have children, I feel for these amazing people, all of them..... Rizzo
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VINE VOICEon April 14, 2008
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. Does that make them somehow feel better? The story itself really gets bogged down in all the religion. To some readers this is a positive point, to others like myself who considers themself spiritual rather than religious, this was way overdone. I found myself skimming many parts - making this a very quick read.

For those who are interested in a book detailing more about traumatic brain injury, I highly recommend Where is the Mango Princess by Cathy Crimmins who details her husband's TBI in detail and how it affected her family. I would recommend Mistaken Identity to evangelical Christians who aren't concerned about details of traumatic brain injury itself. I am glad that I didn't pay full price for this book, instead being able to download it on my Kindle. I can see where a person who could easily be put-off by the overtly Christian overtones of this book would send it flying across the room despite the fact that this is a truly amazing story and these are wonderful people who I applaud for being as caring as they were in a time of such tragedy. I think that it doesn't take a Christian to be able to react this way, genuine caring human beings of any faith or no faith at all may have done the same thing.

Just an aside, it will be really interesting to see how many "not helpful" votes I get for this review from people who just don't agree with me because I dared write a negative review on this book, because I dared be anti-Christian when I am truly just trying to be helpful and give people another version in order for them to make an educated decision before spending their hard-earned money on a book.
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on March 27, 2008
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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on March 29, 2008
I am good friends with the parents of one of these families. I know how hard it was for them to tell their story... to open themselves up in this way. However, they obviously felt compelled to share knowing it would be a way of giving testimony to the faithfulness of God.... no matter what the circumstance. Both families share their stories in a very real way. They bring the reader into the most unbelievable, heartwrenching situations that for them were all too real. Hopefully as you read of their journey you will feel uplifted, grateful, challenged and more aware of the loving God these families have found to be so faithful and good.
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on April 5, 2008
I highly recommend this book. It's very touching and heartfelt. These two families share two different outcomes, but share the common thread of incredible faith that has helped all of them get through this unfortunate accident.

I grew up around the Marion (Ind). area (Gas City), and Mrs. Colleen Cerak had been the girl's junior high school P.E. teacher (Mississinewa, R.J. Baskett). Vaguely, I remember her taking a leave of absence because she had had a baby. This was back in 1987, so that baby would have been Whitney Cerak. I didn't realize it was the mother of the victim, but watched the Dateline special and recently finished the book. I thought Colleen looked very familiar on television. I couldn't figure it out until I noticed on the back of the book it said she was a P.E. teacher and coach in Michigan. I called the school to verify it and it was Colleen who indeed had been the P.E. teacher.

It's amazing to think how in less than 45 days these families lives would be altered forever. In our day and time of economic stress, loss of jobs, after reading this book, it sure puts your life in perspective. We need not to take our families for granted and learn to enjoy our loved ones, friends, and the overall fading moments of our lives. You just never know what can happen.
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on April 3, 2008
...for putting their story down in such an incredible way.

I ordered this book only because we have some second-hand connections with both families. I expected it to be interesting for that reason, but braced for the typical ghostwritten, smarmy-faith drivel. I was blown away!

I could not put the book down, and crawled into a corner of my bedroom to hide from the kids until I'd finished it, five hours later. It is sweet and inspiring, honest and touching. The writer presents both families in such a way that I could completely relate to their fears and heartaches, and also to their reliance upon Christ to sustain them in the face of intense pain. As their stories are unfolded side-by-side, the book becomes as gripping, as another reviewer has said, as the best novels.

It's just wonderful to see such wholesomeness connected with a news headline, and such tangible humanity evident through what might otherwise be a schmaltzy "Christian" book.

Congratulations on reaching Amazon's #2 spot! This one certainly deserves its audience.
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on April 1, 2008
The name of the book caught my eye, Mistaken Identity. I picked it up and read the description on the back. I had never heard of this news event and thought at first it was fiction. It looked interesting so I gave it a chance. I was stunned to find out this is a true story. As I read, I would ask myself an array of questions and possibilities. One of the great things about this book is the writers answer all of these questions unlike most books. The author's Don & Susie Van Ryn and Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak, did an excellent job putting themselves in the mind of the reader. It is written with consideration for what the reader would want to know about their experience. It also provides and intimate insight into their minds and families. Mistaken Identity takes the reader step-by-step through the five and one half weeks which these families endured. It is an easy read and to the point. I often find myself bored with lofty over explained books but this one was perfect. I highly recommend!
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on April 6, 2008
I couldn't put this book down. What these two families went through was absolutely incredible, and you feel every emotion they feel as they wend through their strange journey. Before I read this book I couldn't believe a family could not recognize that the person they think is their daughter and sister is not. But after seeing the strength of the power of suggestion--in this case being told by officials that this was their daughter--especially when the two girls look so much alike, I can understand the mistake, although it is still very hard to believe. Your heart breaks for Laura's family, while you feel unimaginable joy for the Ceraks. I am so glad this book was written, so the public could understand just how this mix up could happen. Excellent.
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VINE VOICEon September 22, 2008
Believe it or not, I came to this book through a TV show. What's really ironic about that is I don't even have TV. My boyfriend and I run a bookstore, and most of our time, energy, and focus is caught up with books and the day-to-day needs of our business. Why bother paying for TV when most of it is junk, and we don't have time anyway? We do, however, like "House", and so we rent the DVDs. I saw an episode from Season 4 -- I believe it was the opening episode -- about two young women who worked in an office building that collapsed. I won't give everything away, but suffice it to say, their identities were mixed up. I talked to a friend about how much that episode touched me, stayed with me, had me reflecting on it for days. She suggested this book.

The story seems unbelieveable, as many people have said -- more like a storyline for a TV show or a movie than something that could really happen in real life.

I hate to join in the "circus-for-free" syndrome that we seem to have, almost helpless to turn our eyes away from the accident scene, the smoke pouring out the windows of the burning building, the crumbled buildings and bodies left in the wake of the latest disaster shown on the news. Nevertheless, this story was so compelling. I had to known more about what transpired, what the families went through, how the mix-up happened. I believe and respect that the only reason these families agreed to write their blog, do some media interviews, and eventually do this book was the opportunity to share their faith.

I grew up in the church, but I have often stayed on the perimeter, uncomfortable with so many things done and said in the name of Christianity. I am often uncomfortable with stories as heavily evangelical as this. In this case, I was so proud of the Van Ryns and the Ceraks. They are living their faith, and sharing it beyond "the shadow of the valley of Death", being content in all things because of the One who strengthens them, tested like Job. I was not "turned off" this story by how much they told it by faith. I was deeply touched.
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