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Selection Info & Discussion Guides

Mistaken Identity
By The Van Ryns and Ceraks with Mark Tabb

#1 New York Times Bestseller

Five lives were lost in a tragic accident involving a Taylor University van, and one young woman, severely injured and comatose, was rushed to the hospital.

Five funerals were held. Families, faculty, students, and communities grieved their losses and joined in prayer and hope as the one young woman, Laura Van Ryn, fought for her life in a hospital bed. The national news spread the story, and people everywhere shared the grief and hope.

Five weeks passed for the Cerak family. Believing they had buried their daughter, the Ceraks clung to their faith and worshipped God through their tears, learning to look forward with hope to an eternal reunion with their lvoely daughter Whitney. They spent weeks of mourning and grief surrounded by loved ones, slowly moving toward healing.

Five weeks passed for the Van Ryns. Keeping a constant bedside vigil over their precious daughter Laura, they sat and prayed and hoped. Confronted with tubes and surgeries, vital signs and healing signs, they rejoiced at each tiny advance toward recovery. Their friends and church and family members, along with a steady stream of students, celebrated with them each sign of Laura's healing.

And then the shock!

"Okay, Laura, I would like you to write your name for me," the occupational therapist said.


An event that could be seen as pure tragedy becomes a celebration of life's unfathomable gifts and mysteries.


Here's what a reader had to say:

"I love to read but seldom have time. When I picked this book up, I could not put it down. I have recommended this book to everyone I know.....and even to some I don't know.

Two families are inexplicably joined together through a tragic upheaval in their lives. Both families college-age daughters were involved in a car accident while returning from a service trip for their college. One girl lived.....one died. Due to a case of "Mistaken Identity", one family cared for the other family's daughter thinking she was their own (for five weeks).

There is so much compassion and Christian love shown by both families throughout their times of great joys and tremendous sorrows. As a mother, I was constantly putting myself into this book and wondering how I would have been handling the same circumstances."
--Rose, St. Louis

Discussion Questions

In the situation they were in, if you were Whitney's parents, would you have wanted to identify the body? Why?
Can you relate to the way they felt about identifying the body and why?

How does the faith each family has impact you? Is it believable and why?

Can you understand how the families were mistaken about the identities for so long and why?

What do you think of the different ways each family grieved?

What do you think of the relationship between the families today?
Could you do the same in their position and why?

Could you be that strong if either girl were your daughter or sibling?

What do you think it was like for Laura's Mom and how would you have reacted?

If your daughter died, would you have gone to the hospital to visit the surviving girl? Why?

In a society of legal battles and law suits, why do you think there have been none in this case?

Is there anything you could do to make your family as strong in faith as the Van Ryns and Ceraks?

How would you raise your children to be as strong as these were when you as a parent are emotionally and physically drained?

What does this teach you about forgiveness? Acceptance?


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