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An Honest House: A Memoir by Cynthia Reyes

An Honest House is a rich memoir that moves through a ten-year period of Cynthia Reyes’ cynthiasreyes.com life. In the midst of a successful career, family life with children blooming, she and her husband move to an old farmhouse surrounded by gardens they love, just north of Toronto. Against this idyllic backdrop, PTSD strikes.

AHH

An Honest House, a second memoir by Cynthia Reyes

 

 

A car accident leaves Reyes with debilitating pain and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its attendant depression, inability to concentrate, inability to sleep, nightmares, regimens of pain killers, difficulty walking and years of physio. The dream house becomes a prison.

In case you are thinking this is a hard luck story, it’s not. Good memoirs bring light into the world, and An Honest House beams light from every page. Bit by bit, from deepest despair to light-hearted jocularity, we accompany Cynthia Reyes as she “grows up”, to use her term.

On the other hand, it’s not an easy journey. From a fast-paced flourishing life, she is suddenly thrown into a state of virtual infancy where speech is often not possible, where she spends most of her days, weeks and even months, in bed, and becomes dependant on the care of others. One day, after months of therapy, the only way she can get upstairs is on all fours, groaning all the way. She improves, then relapses, improves, relapses.

Cynthia Reyes

Cynthia Reyes

Reyes’s story takes us through the steps that she determinedly committed to to keep her sense of self—now in tatters. She brings us with her when she remembers her mother’s warmth and wisdom in Jamaica. She recognizes the support around her: her church community, wonderful neighbours, her library, Toronto Rehab.

It is her husband who takes it upon himself to locate and present to her many stories about home and family she has written over the years, knowing they will pull her (in good moments) into writing again. They do, but then the addictive computer causes relapses, and at one point her daughter finally hid the mouse so that she would do what she dreaded most: rest. Eventually, with patience and perseverance, alternating with trips to doctors and therapists, she pulls together her first memoir. A Good Home (2013). It would go on to sell thousands of copies.

Because her style is engaging and compassionate, we, the readers, feel we are in intimate conversation with her. When she sees that the farmhouse is no longer a prison but a protector, we know she is winning her struggle.

Walking us through the many minefields of PTSD, Cynthia Reyes finishes this, her second memoir, with a magician’s wand. A Christmas like no other, with the constancy of a loving family. To the end, she never forgets to “mek joke” (as her mother would advise) to add joy to the bedrock of love. No one leads a charmed or painless life, Reyes realizes. And … well, I don’t want to give away any more.

This memoir is: instructive, courageous, comforting and hopeful. I highly recommend immersing yourself in An Honest House.

Cynthia talking to Spirit of the Hills Writers Group, Grafton, Ontario. Erika and Susan to her right.

I asked Reyes cynthiasreyes.com a few questions:

DT This memoir ends with several pages of medical definitions and symptoms of, and resources for, PTSD. Why did you include this section?

CR It took me too long to understand, then accept, that I was afflicted with PTSD. The more people who understand the symptoms of PTSD and how it exacerbates pain and triggers depression, the better. I also want readers to know that there are resources that may be of help.

DT People will enjoy meeting the several characters, family and neighbours, who you introduce them to. I was particularly drawn to Aunt Rose, your mother’s sister. Would you ever consider writing a memoir about the two of them?

CR Yes. They are such strong and interesting characters.

DT I’m glad to hear that! How does it feel to be launching your second memoir?

CR It feels good to have gone back and completed a book that I ran away from repeatedly. But also a bit nerve-wracking. Many readers loved A Good Home, and read it over and over. Will they like this book? Also, I wonder: how will I hold up when interviewers and audiences expect me to speak freely about PTSD. They have a right to expect that, but I don’t know how I’ll handle it.

DT Rest assured; readers will love An Honest House just as much. It’s a continuation of your journey, in your voice, in your open-hearted way of facing fears and embracing beauty.

Thank you, Cynthia!

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22 comments on “An Honest House: A Memoir by Cynthia Reyes

  1. A fabulous review, Diane. I would like to reblog it as it says so perfectly everything I love about Cynthia’s memoirs.

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  2. Another “must-read” book you’ve introduced to me, Diane. Under such adversity it must have taken courage just to get out of bed and face the day. Cynthia and her family are heroes.

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  3. I’ve not read either book, Diane, though I have long intended to read the first. It’s amazing to me the challenges some people can face in life and remain positive and cheerful. I distinctly fear that I’d be the misery in the corner.

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  4. This is a very thorough and intriging review. The short Q/A and photo complements it and adds a bit of personality… Most enjoyable. Thanks for sharing Cynthia’s work through such an in-depth approach.

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  5. […] Taylor, author of The Gift of Memoir, (an excellent go-to book on memoir-writing) who was the first to review my book. See it here: […]

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  6. Thank you, Diane — queen of memoir-writing — for this thoughtful review of my book. Your review means a lot especially because you are such a good judge of memoirs. It brought me to tears.

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  7. I found this review through Gallivanta’s blog and will have to check it out. It sounds inspirational (although I hate to think of the challenges that Cynthia faced to be able to provide this inspiration).

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    • In so many ways, Cynthia’s story is heart warming.
      I am delighted to find you are circumnavigating on a sail boat named Amandla. My partner and I built a 46′ trimaran and sailed south, Sailing is still in my blood. Most of my posts are about memoir writing and memoirs, but a few are short anecdotes (the bricks of memoirs) and you might like this one from the sailing years Close Call on the Pacific Ocean https://dianemtaylor.com/2015/06/24/close-call-on-the-pacific-ocean/. I’ve signed up to follow your journey.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wonderful to meet a fellow sailor! Will be great to sail together virtually here and on my pages. Am looking forward to reading that post on your close call. Sorry for my delayed response…we were island hopping on the east coast of Australia and have been without internet for a week. Playing catch up now.

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  8. Came over to visit from Gallivanta’s blog. This sounds like a fascinating recommendation for my book club – thank you!

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  9. Diane, your review is spot on perfect. I’ve shared this on Linkedin with a warning that it does have spoilers (for those of us who like to be surprised). I loved this book even more than Cynthia’s first one–which was also wonderful.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

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  10. Thanks, Wendy. I should probably learn how to do a review without spoilers. I notice yours came to my box yesterday, but I was unable to read it. The screen turned gray almost as soon as it appeared. But the main thing is that it reached your followers, many of whom will be inspired to read Cynthia’s latest memoir.

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