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

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  54 ratings  ·  15 reviews
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 emptiesforeclosed 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.

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Hardcover, 259 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Henry Holt & Company
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Craig Pittman
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
A terrific book that just missed earning five stars. It's got a great premise and starts off strong -- and finishes strong, too. Now about that mushy middle part, though...

Paul Reyes' father runs a trash-out crew in Tampa, tackling foreclosed and abandoned homes and cleaning out all the abandoned and smelly crap that's inside so they can be resold. Reyes, a writer, decides to come back to Tampa and join the crew for a while to write about the effects of the mortgage crisis by looking at who was
Apr 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fine sifting through the material culture of a burst bubble. I don't think a novel could have captured this despairing moment any better. This time, my pursuit of a book excerpted in Harpers worked out really well, while his pursuit of his parents' 1960's Florida dream lot proved fascinating. He always brings it back to the artifacts, and how people handle those artifacts. This is something I enjoyed.
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was a pretty good book about the mortgage crisis. I never even thought about the people whose job it is to clean out forclosed houses. I think it would be fascinating seeing what was left behind, but also icky and probably very gross. People leave behind some gross things sometimes, even when they are not mad about losing their houses.

It was so sad to read about the people who were obviously duped into signing mortgage papers that were not beneficial. I always hate to read/hear about people
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book five stars because it was intriguing enough that it kept me up half the night reading it. Paul Reyes has a very engaging writing style and he did a great job of contrasting the history of those who built Florida with the modern day human detritus destroying it. Once thriving happy neighborhoods are now ghetto slums, foreclosures left and right etc. Reyes seems to have more sympathy than necessary for some of the people, who just don't seem as if they ever should have had ...more
Leslie Zampetti
Jan 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Reyes' thoughtful examination of the mortgage/housing crisis in Florida certainly hit home. Exiles in Eden brings a unique perspective to the table as Reyes is a "trash-out" man working for his father's business in between writing gigs. The empathy he experiences while cleaning out foreclosed owners' homes leads him to try and understand how the current crisis came about, its place in Florida's boom-and-bust history, and what can be done for those affected by it. Not only does he speak with ...more
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it
The book was ok. The stories we're interesting-but nothing more. There didn't seem to be a common thread linking the stories together.

it's too bad, because living in South Florida, I have seen the unfinished subdivisions, and know many people affected by the crises, (e.g. more than a few people who could afford to make the payments on their homes-but because they we're so upside down chose not to), but the author seems to squander the opportunity to make a really great book, by simply stitching
Raul Ramos y Sanchez
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this one when I didn't expect to. The title and description sounded a little interesting, but after all, a book about the housing crisis as it played out in South Florida? It helped that I had lived there and knew a little of the geography, but mainly it was the author. Paul Reyes told it in the first person, having worked for awhile clearing out stuff from houses that had been foreclosed on. Reyes is well published in other realms and is just a good story teller. He kept my attention ...more
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book about the current housing crisis, told in story form by those who clean out homes after they have been foreclosed. Based in Florida in places that have been the hardest hit by declining home values. Tons of books have been written already on this subject, but most of them are technical and talk about the banking regulations, etc. This one is definitely different! I think it would appeal to people who usually tend to read fiction, even though it is a true story!
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
A nice mix of memoir and history, Reyes' book gives a more personal look at the mortgage loan crisis.

I only wished, as I was reading, that he'd started with the personal stories and moved toward the sweeping language at the end... it felt like he threw me straight into the big picture - triumph of nature over man, triumph of greed over humanity - without allowing me to come to those conclusions on my own, through evidence.

Also, what a weird way to end the book.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Expanded from an article in Harper's, Paul Reyes follows his father's "trash out" crew through the neighborhoods of Tampa's foreclosure wave, unable to help himself from reconstructing their lives and the circumstances (personal, subprime-lender induced and symptoms of Florida's additionally peculiar and crooked land boom history).
Teri Smith
May 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting look into the foreclosure crisis. It gets a bit slow towards the end when he writes about Lehigh Acres and his family's involvement in the land scams of the 1960's. That doesn't have much to do with the current mortgage crisis.
Oct 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
I thought this book would be rollicking good fun in a depressing, isn't-it-crazy-how-our-empire-is-crumbling sort of way. But it wasn't. It seemed more like a series of somewhat interesting articles on foreclosed homes mixed with not terribly interesting personal reminiscing.
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
The anecdotes about foreclosures and the people who work around and in the business are interesting enough, but the final chapters that relate the development of Lehigh Acres, Florida, are fascinating. Now I have to read the Orchid Thief to find out more.
Paul Reyes
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
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Paul Reyes is the former editor at large of The Oxford American and currently is a contributing editor with Virginia Quarterly Review. While working with The OA, he both edited and contributed a wide range of articles, including profiles, criticism, and essays, and produced several multimedia features for its website. He began his career in journalism working as a freelance fact-checker for such ...more

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