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Exiles in Eden: Life Among the Ruins of Florida's Great Recession [Hardcover]

Paul Reyes

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Book Description

Aug. 31 2010

An on-the-ground, intimate tour of the human toll of the nation's foreclosure crisis

While working with his father's small company that "trashes out"— enters and empties—foreclosed homes in Florida, Paul Reyes wrote Exiles in Eden, a hard-hitting, personal, and poetic portrayal of his own family and the people and communities affected by the foreclosure crisis.

Grounded in Florida and Reyes family history, and with character-driven visits to the dark corners of this crisis—including with those who are calling for revolution—Reyes explores the human element of this frightening rattling of the American Dream. From examining the unique "ecosystems" of each failed mortgage to witnessing parts of abandoned Florida returning to its wild natural state, Reyes takes the reader far from the machinations of Wall Street to the sun-baked side streets where the true costs of this crisis can be seen. The result is an extraordinary book about the allure and dream of home—and a portrait of an America where the exiled insist on the right to their own America dreams, even as the terms are forcibly redrawn.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Aug. 31 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091236
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #645,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Exiles in Eden is engaging, insightful, compassionate, and often charmingly idiosyncratic.” –Booklist
“an engaging read” –The Miami Herald
“Reyes is a keen observer and inventive writer.” –The Seattle Times

About the Author

Paul Reyes's writing has appeared in the Oxford American, The New York Times, Harper's, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Details, the Mississippi Review, Los Angeles Times Book Review, and Slate. In 2010, he received a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Reyes lives in Tampa, Florida.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly written chronicle of Floridian "Paradise Lost" Sept. 15 2010
By Ray S. - Published on Amazon.com
Paul Reyes has written a unique and enchanting glimpse into the human side of the foreclosure crisis that has ravaged Florida's housing market. He weaves in and out of a lifetime full of stories about abandoned homes, yet-to-be abandoned homes, and the people who are caught up in the middle of the mess.

It's not a book that deals with the mind-numbing economics of the collapse of the mortgage industry. Reyes eschews interviews with bigwigs and experts in favor of snippets of daily life on the ground in Florida's hardest hit communities. Most of the chapters recount Reyes' days following around his father, who made a career out of cleaning up the left-behind remains after a foreclosed homeowner skips town.

I highly recommend the book if you are looking for greater insight into the human dimension of the Florida housing crisis. The style is both illustrative and, at times, poetic. I often found myself swept up in the narrative, nearly to the point of feeling the sweat of a humid Florida afternoon. The chapter on Lehigh Acres is particularly intriguing, bringing to light some of the backhanded real estate tactics that laid the groundwork for the current crisis.

Kudos again to Reyes on his debut book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A snapshot in time Dec 12 2011
By Brad Smith - Published on Amazon.com
I couldn't stop reading this, but not because it was fantastically well written, thought it is. I enjoyed it because I live in Tampa where this book is based, and all the geography and place names are all too real. True, Reyes really doesn't tie things all together. He hops around with long vignettes about trashing out foreclosed homes, family memories, tales of Florida real estate scams way back in the day, history lessons, glimpses of low-income housing activists in Miami and one particularly interesting look at Lehigh Acres, a Lee County development where northerners back in simpler times bought lots for $10 down and $10 a month, with no expectation that they would ever move to rural Florida. The writing quality here is extremely detailed, and the people portraits are rich. There's no beginning, middle or end to the tale. Just a snapshot of the latest foreclosure crisis, while we know there will be another one another day.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frank, vivid and highly-original June 10 2011
By Raul Ramos - Published on Amazon.com
With prose that is frank, vivid and highly-original, Paul Reyes manages to give a soul to a soulless place in EXILES IN EDEN. Reyes' deftly uses his presence in the book to provide social observations while avoiding the omniscient third person moralizing of many books about social crises. In exploring the history of Tampa and Miami Beach, Reyes tracks the sordid hucksterism that is the social DNA of the current crisis. I found EXILES IN EDEN an eye-opening must-read about the creeping, social corrosion overtaking Florida and large parts of the nation.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good, but disjointed Dec 9 2010
By C. P. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Paul Reyes is a writer with a rather unique perspective on the mortgage crisis. His family is involved in cleaning out foreclosed homes in Miami, possibly ground zero for these things.

Reyes includes several different types of material in this book:

- Descriptions of the clean-out process - This is actually why I read this book. I guess I was thinking of something along the lines of an entertaining, insightful foray into garbageology. Unfortunately, this particular material is a little thin.
- Higher-level material on the crisis itself - This has to be there, but it's obvious this is really not his metier.
- Descriptions of the people involved - This is where Reyes shines. He does foreclosees, the guys in his family's crew, an activist, etc.
- Family memories - These were the best. Unfortunately, they're not always that closely related. One that is, though, is his parents buying a piece of swampland back in the 60s, then his looking it up 50 years later, which was particularly good.

Unfortunately, there's no real effort to tie these things together. It just seems to be one thing after another, with no sense of any real direction. It might actually have worked as a set of separate individual pieces. Or perhaps some overview at the beginning (I hope that wasn't in the intro - I never read those!).
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real Estate Bubbles Sept. 10 2010
By SPB3 - Published on Amazon.com
An extremely interesting narrative written primarily from the perspective of the individuals who lost their homes and the circumstances leading up to those loses. Reyes manages to provide intimate insight into these individuals' lives without diminishing their dignity. Obviously, an awful lot of work went into seeking these displaced former homeowners to discover their perspective on the loss of the stereotypical American dream.

A really good read.

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