Mistaken Identity

Mistaken Identity : Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope

4.06 (8,807 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , By (author)  , With 
4.06 (8,807 ratings by Goodreads)
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A grief reversed. A hope deferred. Mistaken Identity tells the unprecedented story of Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak: one buried under the wrong name, and the other in a coma being cared for by the wrong family.Five lives were lost in a tragic car accident, and the sole survivor was rushed to the hospital, where she remained in a coma for five weeks. Everyone believed that Laura Van Ryn was in a coma, and that Whitney Cerak had died in the crash--until Whitney woke up. 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? In Mistaken Identity, the Van Ryn family and the Cerek family describe their ordeal and explore the bond sustaining and uniting them as they deal with their bizarre reversal of life lost and life found. 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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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 152 x 224 x 23mm | 358g
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Illustrations; Illustrations, black and white
  • 1439153558
  • 9781439153550
  • 183,885

About van Ryn

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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Rating details

8,807 ratings
4.06 out of 5 stars
5 40% (3,533)
4 34% (2,954)
3 20% (1,724)
2 5% (467)
1 1% (129)

Our customer reviews

Everyone saw the news splashed across the headlines or on the evening news reports. The wrong family was sitting beside a recovering girl in the hospital. How could it have happened? Read MISTAKEN IDENTITY to get the inside account from the two families that were involved in the unbelievable story. The story seems straight out of the movies, almost too hard to fathom. But the Van Ryn and Cerak families, aided by Mark Tabb, tell the story of how Whitney and Laura were misidentified and two families dealt with both joy and sorrow with the help of their unerring faith in God. Laura and Whitney were both students at Taylor University, a Christian college in Indiana. There were both in a school van on their way back to campus from a banquet with a few other people. A tractor trailer crossed the median and hit the side of the van, plowing it onto the side of the road. "Laura" was thrown 50-feet from the van. When rescue workers found her, a purse and ID nearby said that it was Laura Van Ryn. The photo on the ID looked enough like her. Thus began a five-week trial for both families. The Cerak family received a call that Whitney had died in the accident. An employee from the university had identified her for the family. Colleen couldn't bring herself to look at the empty shell of what was left of Whitney, knowing in her heart that the true spirit of Whitney was now standing before God. Had Colleen gone and identified the body, would the error have been caught on the first night? No one knows. The entire story is a bunch of "what ifs" by both families. Little things during "Laura's" recovery made family and friends question and wonder when "Laura" would return to her full self. But with the doctors and therapists constantly telling the Van Ryns that the neurons are firing but not necessarily connecting properly yet, no one gave it a serious second thought. Only after "Laura" starts to come out of her coma and respond to therapy do the questions truly get raised. When a therapist asks "Laura" to write her name -- out came "W-H-I-T-N-E-Y." In the next few days, the pieces all come together, and a forensic dentist verifies the worst news for the Van Ryn family: this is not Laura after all. What should be a story of loss for the Van Ryn family is a story of unerring faith. They are truly grateful for the time they spent with Whitney in the hospital. They are happy for the Ceraks' miracle and do not blame God. The Cerak family went through grief but knew that Whitney had lived in God's love and was in a better place. They had sorrow, but knew that they would all see Whitney sometime in the future. When the call came that she may still be alive, Carly, Whitney's sister, would not believe it. Not until she saw with her own eyes did she believe the miracle that Whitney was still alive. The story is so uplifting in the true belief both families have in God, that even in the time of sorrow they both experienced, the reader never once felt truly sad. The Van Ryn and Cerak families are both truly exceptional families. They are unwavering in their faith and love in God. They are both wonderful examples of a life lived to the fullest.show more
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