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.
"Writing with agility and empathy, Smith ends this atmospheric family saga on a note of reconciliation and forgiveness." - Publishers Weekly
"In the end, Smith overlaps territory John Sayles explored in Sunshine State, but with a more generous sense of our foibles. It's a promising start - and a lot of fun." - Kirkus Reviews
"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
"Like a sandspur, Heart of Palm sticks with you, drawing blood." - Rita Mae Brown, author of The Sand Castle
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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.
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