Characters and their situations are the life blood of a great
novel. Heart of Palm is a great
novel. You will be wrapped up immediately in the lives of the Bravo men, Dean,
Frank, Carson and Will from the moment you meet them and the women unfortunate
enough to love them. Sounds sappy and sloppy, but believe me, it’s not.
Heart of Palm had one of the longest prologues I’ve ever encountered, but it
set the stage beautifully for the relationship between Arla Bolton and Dean
Bravo. She is the tall, svelte, elegant young woman and he is the handsome,
devilish bad boy some women fall for effortlessly. I won’t tell you just how
badly their relationship starts off because, honestly, it was one of those
moments where I was completely caught off guard (and this was in the first 50
pages!) by what a writer created. I confess here that I yelped when I read it.
Yes, yes, I said, “yelped.”
The middle of the book follows the trials and tribulations of
Frank and the quietly-getting-louder feud with his brother Carson and what
Frank should do about the proposition he and his family receive. Frank is torn
between what he should do and what he wants to do. Really, isn’t
that how it is for us all? Here we are shown what has happened throughout the
history of the Bravo family and what has made them who they are today.
Just past the middle of Heart
of Palm, Laura Lee Smith kicks the story into high gear and increases the
speed with which you will turn the pages to find out exactly what is going to
happen. By this point of the novel, forget about getting anything else done
until you close the book after the last page.
As I read Heart of Palm, it felt warm and familiar. It dawned on me by page
250 that Laura Lee Smith writes in much the same style as Richard Russo and
that made me love the book even more. Smith writes real people (many we know)
and situations completely true to life. How many times in our own lives are we
taken from what we know and trust to something new, foreign, but hopeful? For
me – almost every day.