Just two weeks before moving into an old farmhouse on the edge of the city, Cynthia Reyes’ car was rear-ended by another vehicle.
She and her husband Hamlin Grange were eagerly looking forward to the relocation that would bring them closer to their rapidly growing consulting business. He had determined that this would be the family’s last move and as such referred to their new home as “the forever house”. His wife, on the other hand, called it the “grown-up house” because of its elegant traditional rooms.
Then something unexpected happened.
Unable to help with the unpacking and setting up because of the terrible pain and grief caused by the summer afternoon accident, Reyes soon felt trapped in her new home.
That was extremely heartbreaking and difficult for someone who was always on the move and had enjoyed an award-winning career. During her spare time or while travelling, the former Black Business & Professional Association president wrote nearly 70 non-fiction stories, some of which were published in Arabella Magazine.
One day while comforting his wife, Grange suggested they pluck those stories from old computers, boxes, envelopes and torn plastic bags.
“He felt that the material contained a lot of strengthening knowledge that I needed to remind myself of because I have been through a really tough time,” said Reyes, a former Women in Film & Television and Women in Media Foundation board member. “He started looking for those stories and bit by bit over a one-year period, he found close to 60 of them. I was still in touch with the editor of Arabella and when she heard about these stores, she asked me to send her one and then another. They were a big hit with the magazine’s readers to the point that people started asking if I had written a book. I didn’t, but that led me into thinking that there were enough stories there that could make a book.”
A Good Home: A Memoir was released earlier this year. It’s a profoundly emotional book about Reyes’ early life in rural Jamaica, her migration to urban North America and her trips back home, told through vivid descriptions of the unique homes she has lived in ranging from a tiny pink house in Jamaica and a mountainside cabin near Vancouver to the historic Victorian farmhouse in which she and her husband now reside.
“I realized that every story I had written was under the broad theme of home – losing home, finding home, searching for home, rebuilding home and understanding home,” she said. “The book became this story of home in its physical sense of a shelter, in its broad sense a homeland because I left Jamaica to make a home in Canada and again in probably its smallest yet most meaningful sense, the home inside you.”
Available in most bookstores and online from Amazon, the five-star rated book has received rave reviews for its warmth and emotion.
“It’s amazing that a book that was completed in a time of such pain and grief could be of such comfort to so many people,” said Reyes who is the recipient of a 1998 African-Canadian Achievement Award and a 2003 Crystal Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Film & TV Industry. “I have received hundreds of letters and it’s incredible that people take strength and comfort from it. It reminds you that you have a responsibility as an author because people have said to me, ‘I have made a decision about my house and I am selling or I am moving to that place I have always wanted to go or I have made a decision about my house and I am staying here’. For me, writing this book has been an experience, but hearing how it affects people is quite humbling.”
A former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation executive producer of television training and development, Reyes co-led a Canadian team of trainers and consultants working in South Africa and Canada to assist the South African Broadcasting Corporation to become a public broadcaster in the post-apartheid period. In 2000, she and Grange established DiversiPro Inc. that specializes in diversity training and management services.