Tags: Cerak, Dateline NBC, evangelical Christianity, Grand Rapids, Taylor University, Van Ryn
Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope by the Van Ryn Family and the Cerak Family in collaboration with Mark Tabb
I had forgotten about the tragic accident that struck Taylor University in April of 2006 until happening upon an interview with the Van Ryn and Cerak families on Dateline NBC. This story is incredible and almost unbelievable. The authorities identified the bodies based upon the location of a purse. This shoddy work led to them claiming that the surviving student was Laura Van Ryn. Instead, the survivor was Whitney Cerak. It took five weeks for the truth to come out. When you hear the entire story it breaks your heart for both families.
Grand Rapids is a conservative, Protestant city. There are times that the self-righteousness of some gives Christianity a bad name. Watching Dateline gave me the opposite feeling. It made me glad that there are people of faith like these families. I was especially awed by Lisa Van Ryn, Laura’s sister, who comes face to face with the knowledge that her sister is dead and that another young woman was in her place. Her poise and composure at that time, so as not to alarm the women she was certain was not her sister, was heroic to me. I knew after this show that I had to read the book.
I don’t often read Christian books and memoirs, other than random lives of saints. The last such book I remember reading was back in junior high. The book was entitled Joni and told the story of Joni Eareckson, a young woman who becomes a quadriplegic as the result of a diving accident. She grew up in a devout family, but it was her coming to grips with her disability which led her to a faith of her own. I found Joni’s story inspiring, even if the expression of her faith did not match my own.
Mistaken Identity, which is told from various perspectives and through excerpts from a blog and Laura Van Ryn’s prayer journal, was a different experience. The opening emphasizes that the book was written to glorify God. The faith of both families was definitely at the forefront throughout the book. Most of this did not interfere with the story for me, but there were sections where I felt like I was in the middle of a hard sell. This is a shame because the story alone carries the message they wanted to deliver. For me, actions have always spoken louder than words. Lisa’s interview on Dateline, especially when she spoke of the moment when she realized that she had been caring for Whitney instead of her sister, exuded the strength and calm that her faith brings her. Some of that was lost for me in the book.
Mistaken Identity is not a bad book. It was just self-conscious. In their focused attempt to make God the focus, God was not allowed to reveal himself from within the story. I am glad that I read the book and I look up to Lisa Van Ryn. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things are heroes to me. I wish her well in her pursuit of physical therapy.
To buy this book, click here.
Tags: ARC, Barnes & Noble, Cerak, Charlottesville, Dateline NBC, Early Reviewers, First Look Book Club, Grand Rapids, it's a small world, LibraryThing, Love is a Mix Tape, Love Marriage, Mistaken Identity, Nan, Renee Crist, Roanoke, Rob Sheffield, Songs for the Missing, spring rain, Stewart O, Taylor University car accident, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Van Ryn
For the past week it seems as though all it’s done is rain, and I’m without an ARC. Please don’t read that as a complaint, though. I have two on the way: Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan through LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers for April and Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan through Barnes & Nobles’ First Look Book Club. Even if those books weren’t somewhere in the mail, I am still happy to be without an ARC. While I absolutely love getting to read free books (who wouldn’t), there is a special commitment made to read and review them in a timely manner. From the moment they arrive in the mail, they become my first in line to be read. Books I’ve actually purchased sit gathering dust on my bookshelf. So, right now, I feel pretty foot loose and fancy free – and my current choices are proving to be very interesting and very personal.
Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield – I bought this book at some point last year for my husband. At that time I bought the book, I knew nothing about the author. I had no idea that the author lived in Charlottesville around the same time as my husband. Last night, after midnight, Danny and I discovered that he knew Sheffield’s wife when she lived in Roanoke!!!! I won’t reveal any more here, because it will be repeated in my review. Suffice to say that I kept saying, “It’s a small f*#!ing world!” over and over again. I’m really excited to write my post about this memoir. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope by the Van Ryn and Cerak families. I remember when the story about this tragically deadly car accident hit the news. At the time, I must have registered that the Van Ryn family was from Grand Rapids, but I was surprised again to hear that familiar accent when I happened upon their interview on Dateline NBC at the end of March. The story was as beautiful as it was heart wrenching. This isn’t typically the type of book I would buy or read, but the hometown connection and the goodness of these people made it impossible for me not to buy.
So, I’m not fretting how long it’s taking Love Marriage to arrive. I’m basking in the glow of my own choices right now.