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Publisher's Summary

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 10 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.

©2013 Laura Lee Smith (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

Critic 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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Story
  • Andrea
  • Pennsylvania
  • 09-10-13

Loved it!

This is a dysfunctional family with a capital D. Heartfelt, funny and so realistic. I enjoyed the characters, and the narration was done very well--really liked the cadence of his voice. I would not hesitate to find more books by this author.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Stacy
  • INDIANAPOLIS, IN, United States
  • 08-25-13

You look like you need a ride darlin

So much about the passing of time makes me sad- and here we see a whole life and an entire family --their happiness and tragedies...yikes I loved this story and am so sorry that it's over- I wonder what will happen to Frank and Sophia and Dean... Listen listen listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Won My Heart ~ Fabulous!!

When there is just enough (money, luck, talent, etc., etc,etc,) to get by, one tends not to take chances or stray very far from what’s familiar. For once the fence has been crossed, if it goes wrong – there are just not enough resources to make it go away. The Bravo family is generations of depleted resources, abject poverty, and a whole lotta dysfunction. Lifetimes of being from the wrong side of town might just turn out to be being in the perfect location at the perfect time with the growth of the Florida intercostal waterways.


Heart of Palm is a strong complex novel in that there are a number of developed plots and subplots with lots of twists and turns full of emotional scenes and unexpected drama at every turn. The characters are as flawed as you and I, possessing transparent hearts and a wonderful southern sense of humor.


Laura Lee Smith’s debut novel is impressively flawless and heartfelt. Her descriptive writing will have you hearing the owls and cicadas, smelling the grease and feeling sweaty and sticky with every turn of the page. You can tell the author is Floridian for the leisurely pace of this book just adds to its ambiance.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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Good performance

It was a slow narrative about a dysfunctional family known for their disreputable actions. Gave an impression of life in small town south Florida and the impact of development on the old way of life. The narrator gave life to each of the characters.

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Great story but wrong narrator

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I enjoyed the story and he writing, but this was the wrong narrator for it. So, I would recommend the book but not he audio.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Heart of Palm?

Fascinating characters and a very well-defined sense of place.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I felt the book needed a different voice, perhaps a female narrator, to bring the characters to life.