Three days before Christmas in 1988, 45-year-old Ana Delina
Valesco walked four hours down a mountain path to catch a
ride to the hospital. She was in pain from a hernia, and she
was 28 weeks pregnant with identical twins. One of her boys
was born very small, and would be taken by bus to a larger
hospital in Bogotá, for treatment.
A day earlier, 36-year-old unmarried mother Luz Marina
Chavez gave birth to identical twin boys in Bogotá’s
Hospital Materno Infantil. It was a public facility; she
chose it because she’d lost her insurance, despite that the
hospital was “chaotic.”
It was chaotic enough that, at some point, Ana’s baby and
one of Luz’s infants were accidentally switched.
Twenty-five years later, after a friend-of-a-friend of one
of the twins noticed that he resembled her co-worker, the
switch was discovered: William was unrelated to his brother,
Wilbur; Carlos was not Jorge’s twin. Sorting details took a
lot of work, and untangling – how could they not? – took
time and a toll on the young men. Two were raised in a
comfortable environment, two were raised with very little.
One set of twins was encouraged to get educations; the other
set received just the basics. Yet, despite differences in
their raising, the identical twins’ similarities were
striking; even their quirks and preferences were similar.
Shortly after the twins learned of the switch,
psychologist Montoya heard of it, too, and contacted Segal,
director of California’s Twin Studies Center and herself a
twin, with a unique opportunity. Twins separated at birth
are nothing new, Segal says; neither are incidents of
swapping. But in this case, four men “were accidental
players in a somber and stressful game of switch.”
Without a shadow of a doubt, Accidental Brothers is
one of those books that’ll blow your mind.
Only part of the explosion will come from the detective work
that authors Segal and Montoya share. Here, they explain how
it was that no one noticed the switch when the boys were
babies, why the families had unspoken suspicions, and what
happened during and after the life-changing accident was
The other part of the ka-boom comes from Segal’s past work
with twins in Minnesota and California. She explains how
genetics affect our laugh, our quirks, and our personal
choices. We learn the many variations of twins, and how they
happen. And she entertains with accounts of other twins
she’s known and studied through the years.
This is a book for detective-story fans and for those who
love a good scientific whodunit, and it’s an instructive
tale, to boot. If you marvel at human uniqueness, then
Accidental Brothers will be a singular delight.