Heart of Palm (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

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. - Wendy, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin

— From Wendy's Easy Chair 3


"Intelligence, heart, wit . . . Laura Lee Smith has all the tools and Heart of Palm is a very impressive first novel."--Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls

Utina, Florida, is a small, down-at-heels southern town. Once enlivened by the trade in Palm Sunday palms and moonshine, Utina hasn't seen economic growth in decades, and no family is more emblematic of the local reality than the Bravos. Deserted by the patriarch years ago, the Bravos are held together in equal measure by love, unspoken blame, and tenuously brokered truces.

The story opens on a sweltering July day, as Frank Bravo, dutiful middle son, is awakened by a distress call. Frank dreams of escaping to cool mountain rivers, but he's only made it ten minutes from the family restaurant he manages every day and the decrepit, Spanish-moss-draped house he was raised in, and where his strong-willed mother and spitfire sister--both towering redheads, equally matched in stubbornness--are fighting another battle royale. Little do any of them know that Utina is about to meet the tide of development that has already engulfed the rest of Northeast Florida. When opportunity knocks, tempers ignite, secrets are unearthed, and each of the Bravos is forced to confront the tragedies of their shared past.

Reminiscent of Kaye Gibbons, Lee Smith, Anne Tyler, and Fannie Flagg, Heart of Palm introduces Laura Lee Smith as a captivating new voice in American fiction.

"Like a sandspur, Heart of Palm sticks with you, drawing blood."--Rita Mae Brown, author of The Sand Castle

"Laura Lee Smith masterfully creates a deep, compassionate, and often heartbreakingly funny portrait of a wild, complex Southern family on the brink of massive change . . . . Smith is a brilliant writer, and Heart of Palm brims with lush vitality, loss, and desire."--Julianna Baggott, author of Pure and The Prince of Fenway Park

" An] incandescent debut novel . . . I can't get the astonishing and benighted Bravos out of my head. And I don't want to. What an extravagantly and engagingly flawed family this is Smith is an enchanter casting her spell with lyrical prose, evocative details, and spellbinding characters. She explores familial chaos, reckless behavior, and hopeless love with grace, intelligence, and tenderness. She gives me what I long for in fiction: compassion and provocation. What talent, what nerve, what a wondrous and spellbinding story. Trust me, these Bravos will haunt your dreams."--John Dufresne, author of Requiem, Mass. and Louisiana Power and Light

About the Author

Laura Lee Smith's short fiction was selected by guest editor Amy Hempel for inclusion in New Stories from the South 2010. Her work has also appeared in The Florida Review, Natural Bridge, Bayou and other journals. She lives in Florida and works as an advertising copywriter.

Praise For…

Praise for Heart of Palm

Independence Day is a turning point for the Bravo family of small-town Utina on Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway. . . . The Bravos, once notorious Utina badasses, find their adult ties of guilt and regret beginning to frazzle as long-dormant resentments emerge. Smith’s debut novel exudes authenticity. . . . She turns a phrase with wit. . . . Writ[ten] with agility and empathy.”Publishers Weekly

From the lyrical opening that sets up this story, Smith’s voice moves to an earthy voice grounded in the tradition of our great yarn-spinners, giving us a Florida Cracker family saga rich in humor and vivid characters who are all-too-realistically violent, crazy, hilarious, big-hearted, and tragic. This is a heartily ambitious novel that’s also a real page-turner, a real story with real people in a place rendered in such palpable detail you feel you know it as well as the people who live there.”Brad Watson, author of The Heaven of Mercury and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives

Product Details
ISBN: 9780802121028
ISBN-10: 0802121020
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
Pages: 496
Language: English