Picks and Pans Review: Mistaken Identity

updated 04/07/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/07/2008 01:00AM

by Don & Susie Van Ryn and Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak with Mark Tabb |

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REVIEWED BY RICHARD JEROME

MEMOIR

The story (PEOPLE, June 19, 2006) is horrifically strange. In April '06 a van accident killed five people from Indiana's Taylor University. Laura Van Ryn, 22, battered and in a coma, survived. For weeks her family kept vigil, praying over her, fixing her hair. Finally, Laura awoke—insisting her name was Whitney. In fact, dental records proved she was Whitney Cerak, 19. Written by both families, this memoir is often frustrating: How did the Van Ryns mistake Whitney for their child, despite eyes that didn't quite look right and a pierced navel? Their realization is excruciating; the Ceraks' reunion with their daughter exhilarating. Back in college, Whitney says she's forever grateful to the Van Ryns, now friends. "Most people would be mad about what happened, but they aren't," she writes. As Laura's sister Lisa puts it, "All those prayers we prayed for Laura, the Lord knew who was really lying in that bed."

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