Last week I picked up Paul Reyes’ memoir, Exiles in Eden: Life Among the Ruins of Florida’s Great Recession (Henry Holt, 2010).
I went to college with Reyes. And while we didn’t know one another, I can still picture him sitting in the cafeteria with a group of mutual friends, always accompanied by a stack of books. So I was curious to learn about his background and where life has taken him over the past two decades.
Reyes’ book turned out to be a fascinating look at both the Florida housing crisis and his family’s own history as immigrants in the US (his father was born in Cuba, his mother and step-mother both in Colombia).
He follows the lives of people affected by the great recession in Florida: those who lost their homes, those who fight for fair housing, those who clear out foreclosed homes (his father’s current profession), those who sell foreclosed homes, and those who sold dodgy real estate and mortgages.
I especially loved the personal stories about his own family and their history in Florida, including the time when his parents purchased a piece of swamp land on their honeymoon more than 40 years ago.
Reyes doesn’t conclude his memoir with a fairytale ending. Instead, he gives the reader much to think about regarding the ongoing housing crisis. Sadly, these issues aren’t likely to be solved for years to come.