Heart of Palms is a clear-eyed memoir of Peace Corps service in the rural Panamanian village of Tranquilla through the eyes of a young American woman trained as a community forester.
In the storied 50-year history of the US Peace Corps, Heart of Palms is the first Peace Corps memoir set in Panama, the slender isthmus that connects two continents and two oceans. In her memoir Meredith Cornett transports listeners to the remote village of Tranquilla, where dugout canoes are the mainstay of daily transportation, life and nature are permeated by witchcraft, and a restful night's sleep may be disturbed by a raiding phalanx of army ants.
Cornett is sent to help counter the rapid deforestation that is destroying the ecosystem and livelihoods of the Panama Canal watershed region. Combating deforestation leads Cornett into an equally fierce battle against her own feelings of fear and isolation. Her journey to Panama becomes a parallel journey into herself. In this way Heart of Palms is much more than a record of her Peace Corps service; it is also a moving environmental coming-of-age story and nuanced meditation on one village's relationship to nature. When she returns home two years later, Cornett brings with her both skills and experience and a remarkable, newfound sense of confidence and mission.
The book is published by The University of Alabama Press.