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Accidental Brothers: The Story of Twins Exchanged at Birth and the Power of Nature and Nurture

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The riveting story of two sets of twins separated at birth and improbably reunited as adults, a dream case for exploring nature vs. nurture. Accidental Brothers tells the unique story of two sets of identical Colombian twin brothers who discovered at age 25 that they were mistakenly raised as fraternal twins--when they were not even biological brothers. Due to an oversight The riveting story of two sets of twins separated at birth and improbably reunited as adults, a dream case for exploring nature vs. nurture. Accidental Brothers tells the unique story of two sets of identical Colombian twin brothers who discovered at age 25 that they were mistakenly raised as fraternal twins--when they were not even biological brothers. Due to an oversight that presumably occurred in the hospital nursery, one twin in each pair was switched with a twin in the other pair. The result was two sets of unrelated "fraternal" twins--Jorge and Carlos, who were raised in the lively city of Bogota; and William and Wilber, who were raised in the remote rural village of La Paz, 150 miles away. Their parents and siblings were aware of the enormous physical and behavioral differences between the members of each set, but never doubted that the two belonged in their biological families. Everyone's life unraveled when one of the twins--William--was mistaken by a young woman for his real identical twin, Jorge. Her "discovery" led to the truth--that the alleged twins were not twins at all, but rather unrelated individuals who ended up with the wrong families. Blending great science and human interest, Accidental Brothers will inform and entertain anyone interested in how twin studies illuminate the origins of human behavior, as well as mother-infant identification and the chance events that can have profound consequences on our lives.


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The riveting story of two sets of twins separated at birth and improbably reunited as adults, a dream case for exploring nature vs. nurture. Accidental Brothers tells the unique story of two sets of identical Colombian twin brothers who discovered at age 25 that they were mistakenly raised as fraternal twins--when they were not even biological brothers. Due to an oversight The riveting story of two sets of twins separated at birth and improbably reunited as adults, a dream case for exploring nature vs. nurture. Accidental Brothers tells the unique story of two sets of identical Colombian twin brothers who discovered at age 25 that they were mistakenly raised as fraternal twins--when they were not even biological brothers. Due to an oversight that presumably occurred in the hospital nursery, one twin in each pair was switched with a twin in the other pair. The result was two sets of unrelated "fraternal" twins--Jorge and Carlos, who were raised in the lively city of Bogota; and William and Wilber, who were raised in the remote rural village of La Paz, 150 miles away. Their parents and siblings were aware of the enormous physical and behavioral differences between the members of each set, but never doubted that the two belonged in their biological families. Everyone's life unraveled when one of the twins--William--was mistaken by a young woman for his real identical twin, Jorge. Her "discovery" led to the truth--that the alleged twins were not twins at all, but rather unrelated individuals who ended up with the wrong families. Blending great science and human interest, Accidental Brothers will inform and entertain anyone interested in how twin studies illuminate the origins of human behavior, as well as mother-infant identification and the chance events that can have profound consequences on our lives.

30 review for Accidental Brothers: The Story of Twins Exchanged at Birth and the Power of Nature and Nurture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jayne

    This wa s a 2.5 Received this ARC from Westwinds Bookshop, Duxbury, MA. An fascinating true story, set in Colombia. Whilst the events themselves are very interesting I felt the author was padding her story with infomaton about other separated twins. Could have been a shorter, tighter book. However, the bare bones facts about twins were informative .

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I was so excited about this book. Two sets of twin brothers, two boys were accidentally swapped and grew up in two totally different types of homes - country life versus city life. A lifetime later they would discover the truth. Nurture vs. Nature is sure to shine through.. The story seemed extremely interesting and it seemed when I read the Preface that the author really knew her stuff. I expected there to be a thorough analysis of the boys' lives in regards to nurture vs. nature. I didn't even I was so excited about this book. Two sets of twin brothers, two boys were accidentally swapped and grew up in two totally different types of homes - country life versus city life. A lifetime later they would discover the truth. Nurture vs. Nature is sure to shine through.. The story seemed extremely interesting and it seemed when I read the Preface that the author really knew her stuff. I expected there to be a thorough analysis of the boys' lives in regards to nurture vs. nature. I didn't even make it 60 pages in - the author kept repeating herself - mentioning "oh this woman was his sister - BUT NOT REALLY! He was switched as an infant!" DUH!! We know this!! Wish this was a well polished book instead of a turd!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lorette

    This is a fascinating and respectfully done piece of work that explores two sets of brothers in Colombia, in which two babies from two sets of identical twins are accidentally switched at birth. The brothers and respective families come to find out about the switch when the "boys" are in their mid twenty's. It is a nature/nurture/epigenetic model (country mouse/city mouse too) researchers dream about - but the social worker and psychologist who wrote this book, the other layers are also attended This is a fascinating and respectfully done piece of work that explores two sets of brothers in Colombia, in which two babies from two sets of identical twins are accidentally switched at birth. The brothers and respective families come to find out about the switch when the "boys" are in their mid twenty's. It is a nature/nurture/epigenetic model (country mouse/city mouse too) researchers dream about - but the social worker and psychologist who wrote this book, the other layers are also attended to. I think there could have been more of an unraveling of the story, with the findings then described in clusters where it made sense. This read a little bit more like a research article - which I totally enjoyed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kayo

    While this was a very fascinating book, it was very hard to read. I had to look back quite a bit and figure out which twin went with each. It made the book not very fun to read, and more of a chore. I was impressed with all the research that went into the book. The twin phenomena is quite something. Thank you to author, St. Martin's Press, and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it. While this was a very fascinating book, it was very hard to read. I had to look back quite a bit and figure out which twin went with each. It made the book not very fun to read, and more of a chore. I was impressed with all the research that went into the book. The twin phenomena is quite something. Thank you to author, St. Martin's Press, and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    I find this subject matter interesting but this book was hard to follow .

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Fascinating story of switched-at-birth identical twins -- with a twist. In this case, two sets of identical twins were switched, so that two families ended up with one biological child and one "accidental twin." William and Carlos were switched (so that the baby named Carlos became William and vice-versa, but that can get too confusing!), ending up with a William-Wilber pair and a Jorge-Carlos pair. Of course, the story of these four alone, as well as their families, is pretty much endlessly fas Fascinating story of switched-at-birth identical twins -- with a twist. In this case, two sets of identical twins were switched, so that two families ended up with one biological child and one "accidental twin." William and Carlos were switched (so that the baby named Carlos became William and vice-versa, but that can get too confusing!), ending up with a William-Wilber pair and a Jorge-Carlos pair. Of course, the story of these four alone, as well as their families, is pretty much endlessly fascinating, and I think Segal did a great job presenting it. She seemed to present an honest account and assessment, while not overly dramatizing. For instance, she never exploits the angle of William, who would have been raised in Bogota and had many more opportunities, being deprived of the upbringing Carlos got. William and Wilber lived in poverty, but it was simply the life they knew; William did not have the educational opportunities he craved, but he had two loving parents. Carlos, who would have been raised in La Paz instead of Bogota, loved the opportunities he got (and it appears he ended up, by a small margin, the most intellectually intelligent of all of them), but had an absent father with whom he was extremely angry, and a loving mother who died at age 56 or 57, when he was only 20. For that aspect alone, the book is interesting. It also includes snippets about other twins separated at birth (some by accident, some by intentional separation at adoptions or the divorce of parents), which are also quite fascinating. One of the most interesting parts of this book to me involves the manifestation of certain traits in identical twins. In one case, two girls were both adopted by Catholic families; one was very religious as a child but less so as an adult; the other had a less religious family, but her faith became much more important to her when she was an adult. But "Mary and Elaine agreed on one point: neither could accept that genetic factors influence a belief in God" (76), but it seems likely that they are mistaken based on the extensive research. Another case involved Jack and Oskar, born in 1933 in British-ruled Trinidad. When their parents decided to get a divorce, Jack stayed with their Romanian father in Trinidad; Oskar returned to Germany with his German Catholic mother.Jack was raised Jewish, worked on an Israeli kibbutz, and entered the Israeli navy. Oskar was raised Catholic, joined the Hitler Youth, and labored in the coal mines of the Ruhr. After reuniting as adults--aside from their opposing political and historical views, which they variously argued about or ignored--the twins' abilities, personalities, and appearance were nearly indistinguishable" (77)Undoubtedly because they were twins, the men set aside their differences and developed a relationship. And both acknowledged that, had the situation been reversed, their political/social/cultural leanings would have been that of their twin. Finally, there's the story of "Todd and Josh . . . , the only known pair of separated identical twins who have experienced gender dysphoria the persistent discontent with one's birth or assigned gender and identification with the opposite gender) and have undergone surgery to change their sex" (161). While there are instances where one separated twin is straight and the other gay or lesbian, the unlikely situation of separated twins both experiencing such drastic gender dysphoria that they had sex-change surgery is, to me, a strong, persuasive argument that gender orientation is intrinsic, not some sort of awful mistake based on trauma, bad parenting, cultural influences, etc. the only difference in this era is that it was possible for them to remediate what they felt was a biological mismatch with their natural tendencies. I got a little bogged down with some of the analyses of traits in the last sections of the book, but I think that was more because I was already a bit enervated from an excess of Thanksgiving break reading, and wanted to finish the book so I didn't have to take it to the library and request an extension.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tess

    Originally I read the story of the Bogota brothers in The New York Times Magazine article. I was fascinated with these events and noted the book being published as a to-read for the future. Well the future is now! This was a very informational approach about twin studies and genetic significance, which I appreciate. But the real story is in the personal journeys of William, Wilber, Jorge, and Carlos. The circumstances of switched identical twins are rare and unimaginable, and I think this book di Originally I read the story of the Bogota brothers in The New York Times Magazine article. I was fascinated with these events and noted the book being published as a to-read for the future. Well the future is now! This was a very informational approach about twin studies and genetic significance, which I appreciate. But the real story is in the personal journeys of William, Wilber, Jorge, and Carlos. The circumstances of switched identical twins are rare and unimaginable, and I think this book did a good job presenting the facts objectively. It also did not sensationalize the intimate experiences of each brother, and clearly respected their individual feelings. I was touched to learn their stories, and I know the significance of their chance meeting will stay in my headspace forever. Fascination aside, the writing did throw me for some loops. The author's enthusiasm is charming for it is clear how excited she is to be telling this tale. Statements repeat over and over again (The twins were switched!!), so the details become very padded. Anecdotes of previous switched twin cases also cloud the story at random intervals, up until the last chapter. I would be cruising along, eager to learn more, and then hit a road block because the sequence of events would be interrupted. Nothing a little editing could fix, but oh well. I enjoyed the documentation of these amazing brothers, and hope they continue to grow their fellowship in the future.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This was a brilliant case study of identical twins who were switched at birth with another set of identical twins, one from each set becoming an "accidental" sibling, one being raised with the family of origin, and other fascinating configurations. The 4 boys grew up in Colombia. The author is a twin and an academic who has researched and written about identical twin switches previous to this one, but finds this to be the most fascinating of the ones she has covered before. Because the author is This was a brilliant case study of identical twins who were switched at birth with another set of identical twins, one from each set becoming an "accidental" sibling, one being raised with the family of origin, and other fascinating configurations. The 4 boys grew up in Colombia. The author is a twin and an academic who has researched and written about identical twin switches previous to this one, but finds this to be the most fascinating of the ones she has covered before. Because the author is obviously empathic and passionate about her work, the book read like a novel, sometimes like a mystery novel. One of the reviewers stated that this was his favourite book of all those he had read this year. I would agree. I learned a lot about twins and would recommend this book to others who are interested in identical twins. I would also caution people to be careful to go home from the hospital with the right baby because apparently it is not as uncommon as one would think that infants are accidentally switched and most parents would never dream that such a thing would happen so are not looking at that baby as possibly the product of a switch.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sheri S.

    This was a fascinating book about two pairs of identical twins where one twin from each pair was switched at birth. One set of twins comes from the countryside in Columbia and the other set is from a larger city. The book tells their stories and how discovery of the switch was made. The author/researcher goes to Columbia and meets with the four young men and conducts interviews and psychological testing with the goal or learning more about nature versus nurture. The book contains interesting gen This was a fascinating book about two pairs of identical twins where one twin from each pair was switched at birth. One set of twins comes from the countryside in Columbia and the other set is from a larger city. The book tells their stories and how discovery of the switch was made. The author/researcher goes to Columbia and meets with the four young men and conducts interviews and psychological testing with the goal or learning more about nature versus nurture. The book contains interesting general information about twins as well as an appendix with fun facts about twins. For example, you'll never guess the longest recorded interval between twin births...At times, it was challenging to keep the individuals in the story straight, but fortunately there is a chart at the front with pictures to help keep everything clear.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    A fascinating account of two babies switched shortly after birth in Columbia. The two sets of twins were thought to be fraternal because they didn't really look alike...but it turns out they were really identical twins. One family lived in the country, the other in Bogata. It was discovered entirely by accident when the country brothers moved to Bogata and one was seen by a young woman who knew his biological twin. It took over a year for the woman and her friend to figure it out and for all fou A fascinating account of two babies switched shortly after birth in Columbia. The two sets of twins were thought to be fraternal because they didn't really look alike...but it turns out they were really identical twins. One family lived in the country, the other in Bogata. It was discovered entirely by accident when the country brothers moved to Bogata and one was seen by a young woman who knew his biological twin. It took over a year for the woman and her friend to figure it out and for all four men to meet. Nancy, who teaches at CSU Fullerton and has done many studies on twins and triplets, does a great job of not only telling their story but also talking about the genetics behind different traits. If you're interested in twins, also read her book Twin Mythconceptions.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I gave this book four stars because the subject matter was fascinating. However, it was somewhat difficult to follow and I had to refer back constantly to the one page with pictures of the people involved in order to keep track of who was who. That may have been the nature of the story. More photos would have been helpful. I thought that Segal did a fairly good job of explaining some complicated material about heredity and gene expression. She also had a great deal of empathy for her subjects an I gave this book four stars because the subject matter was fascinating. However, it was somewhat difficult to follow and I had to refer back constantly to the one page with pictures of the people involved in order to keep track of who was who. That may have been the nature of the story. More photos would have been helpful. I thought that Segal did a fairly good job of explaining some complicated material about heredity and gene expression. She also had a great deal of empathy for her subjects and was careful not to make anyone look bad. The exchanged twins faced a very challenging situation, but the support of their "accidental brothers" and their newfound twins made it possible for them to gain more than they lost.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I loved the subject matter but hated the writing. Probably a third or more of this book could have been cut out. It was extremely repetitive. I took to skipping parts that I had already read multiple times but also trying not to miss new information. A good bit of it was boring because of this. This story could have been portrayed as emotional and exciting but turned out almost clinical and not showing much of the emotion although they tried. Some of the information was mixed up as well, seeming I loved the subject matter but hated the writing. Probably a third or more of this book could have been cut out. It was extremely repetitive. I took to skipping parts that I had already read multiple times but also trying not to miss new information. A good bit of it was boring because of this. This story could have been portrayed as emotional and exciting but turned out almost clinical and not showing much of the emotion although they tried. Some of the information was mixed up as well, seemingly put together haphazardly and causing confusion. Overall, however, I enjoyed learning about these twins and their families.

  13. 4 out of 5

    In

    This has a fascinating topic---two sets of identical twins born at the same time in the same place . One baby from each pair ended up switched and sent home to live as part of a set of fraternal twins. Twenty five years later a chance discovery by a friend, unites all 4 men and their families. This all happened in Columbia. Unfortunately the editor did not find all the repetition. Tidbits were written about over and over again. Entire phrases/sentences popped up again and again. It was really ri This has a fascinating topic---two sets of identical twins born at the same time in the same place . One baby from each pair ended up switched and sent home to live as part of a set of fraternal twins. Twenty five years later a chance discovery by a friend, unites all 4 men and their families. This all happened in Columbia. Unfortunately the editor did not find all the repetition. Tidbits were written about over and over again. Entire phrases/sentences popped up again and again. It was really ridiculous and ruined the second half of the book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    1. It must be so weird to realize you've lived the wrong life your whole life. I cannot begin to imagine the inner turmoil one must experience (especially for Carlos - growing up in the city by chance, even though he should have lived in the countryside with no electricity, education, running water, opportunity.) 2. The impact of genetics on our outcomes (intellect, personality, etc.) is predictably tremendous. 3. Sample size for these studies is terribly small, so it's hard to look too much into 1. It must be so weird to realize you've lived the wrong life your whole life. I cannot begin to imagine the inner turmoil one must experience (especially for Carlos - growing up in the city by chance, even though he should have lived in the countryside with no electricity, education, running water, opportunity.) 2. The impact of genetics on our outcomes (intellect, personality, etc.) is predictably tremendous. 3. Sample size for these studies is terribly small, so it's hard to look too much into them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Francine Rattner

    This is the first time I felt compelled to write a negative review on Goodreads. The subject of the book sounded very interesting to me. Unfortunately, after trying to read it 3 or 4 times, I gave up today. The writing is very repetitious and often hard to follow. Unrelated material is inserted which adds to the confusion. Perhaps there will be more thorough editing done before a second edition is published.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I am really interested in the topic of this book, but was disappointed with its execution. The author clearly knows her stuff, but the narrative jumps around, both in timeline and in which set of twins she is writing about. There seemed to be no reason behind these jumps, resulting in a muddled mess. Segal would have better served her audience by making different chapters about the different twin sets. Or chronological within the main story of the primary set of twins. Or more editing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jane Marie

    I lost interest about halfway through, so the second half was a chore to get through. The parts about Carlos, Jorge, William and Wilber were interesting, but most of this book is the author bragging about her different accomplishments and all the different research she has done about twins. The author obviously favored Carlos and William (the ones that were switched) and only mentioned Jorge and Wilber in relation to Carlos and William most of the time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The facts of the story of two brothers, each half of a pair of identical twins, switched at birth and raised in very different environments is fascinating. This would have made a good article. There was not enough information for a full book, so other twin stories were stuck in awkwardly, which made the book hard to follow. I received an ARC from NetGalley.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robert Saul

    Fascinating book chronically the story of two sets of identical twins separated at birth and raised as fraternal twins. They discovered this situation in their 20s and Dr. Segal (a psychologist with a career in studying twin behavior) provides an interesting look at this situation. An enjoyable read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    The circumstances of the twin mix-up and subsequent serendipitous recognition that they were twins are interesting. I found the author's style of hopping around her knowledge of twin studies rather disorienting. The circumstances of the twin mix-up and subsequent serendipitous recognition that they were twins are interesting. I found the author's style of hopping around her knowledge of twin studies rather disorienting.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    The subject matter was fascinating, but the way it is told is jumbled and confusing. The editor was too lenient, so much of the material is redundant, reminding the reader over and over of what is already known.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Harriett Gamer

    Switched Twins Switched Names? If they were named by their parents before they were switched don't they have the wrong names? Fascinating story that could have been a major tragedy. Switched Twins Switched Names? If they were named by their parents before they were switched don't they have the wrong names? Fascinating story that could have been a major tragedy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    The author takes forever to get to the actual story of the switch and tends to repeat herself quite frequently. However, I enjoyed this book immensely. What a fascinating story of a truly rare situation.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen Murnane

    Being adopted, was NOT fan of many of the author's terms and assumptions, her education be dammed. You can't be taught certain things if you haven't experienced them. Also didn't finish. It just got more and convoluted as she continually threw in other separated twins, just randomly. Being adopted, was NOT fan of many of the author's terms and assumptions, her education be dammed. You can't be taught certain things if you haven't experienced them. Also didn't finish. It just got more and convoluted as she continually threw in other separated twins, just randomly.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I found this book informative and interesting. Thank you to the author, St.Martin press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Lomazow

    A fascinating look at twins from Colombia switched at birth the concept of nature vs.nurture.Well written very interesting read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Did not finish. Found it repetitive and not much new light on the nature v. nurture issue. Maybe if I read it all, there would have been more information.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jerri

    Interesting story, but not the best writing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Fascinating tale. Mlm Fascinating tale. Truly one of the most interesting books I've read in recent memory. Fascinating tale. Mlm Fascinating tale. Truly one of the most interesting books I've read in recent memory.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I liked the concept of the book however, I feel the author could have made the book more interesting. I felt like I was forcing my way through the book.

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