Books by Laura Lee Smith

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O, The Oprah Magazine, May 2013, “Ten Titles to Pick up Now.”


“Intelligence, heart, wit…Laura Lee Smith has all the tools and Heart of Palm is a very impressive first novel.” ~ Richard Russo, winner, 2002 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

“In the end — which comes with a delightful twist — the guilty pleasure of Heart of Palm is its steadfast tangle of rage and grief and love, a heaping dose of Southern soul with a whole lot of chutzpah thrown in.” ~ Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Heart of Palm is Smith’s first novel, and it’s a knockout…She’s a welcome addition to the ranks of Florida writers, and Heart of Palm is a fine, bittersweet taste of the Sunshine State.” — Tampa Bay Times.

 “Heart of Palm is a complex novel, finely developed with multifaceted characters…will stay with the reader long after turning the last page.” — New York Journal of Books.

“Reminiscent of the works of John Irving, with its close-knit but oddball family, weird tragedy at regular intervals, and its very dark sense of humor, this is an engrossing and enjoyable read. — Library Journal.

“…[an] unhurried family saga. Smith is a careful, detailed writer who assembles big, bold, well-drawn scenes–moments from the everyday lives of the Bravos that resonate with deeper insights into how personal regrets and longings shape the fates of all involved.” — Shelf Awareness.

“To match the expertly plotted…and tonally diverse…story, Smith’s prose fizzes with flavor…. It’s this artfully balanced mixture of creativity and craft that make Heart of Palm so undoubtedly rewarding.” — Book Reporter. Also see Q&A with Book Reporter’s Alexis Burling.  

“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.

“In a slowly, gently unfolding comedy of manners, Smith skillfully sets multiple stories in motion, most, it seems, designed to showcase the vanity of human wishes. Smith is a kind and understanding creator, and even the most venal of her characters, we see, is just trying to get by—and usually not succeeding. 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.

“Heart of Palm is a beautifully written story, at times comical and crushingly sad.” — The Florida Book Review.

“I’ve just read Laura Lee Smith’s hefty, eager, and incandescent debut novel, Heart of Palm, and 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.

“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 while simultaneously rendering the ever-shifting identity of the New South, caught between pristine decay and the terrifying promises of development. Smith is a brilliant writer, and Heart of Palm brims with lush vitality, loss, and desire.” — Julianna Baggott, author of Pure and Girl Talk.

“I could feel the heat, the glare off the Intracoastal. Like a sandspur, Heart of Palm sticks with you, drawing blood.” — Rita Mae Brown, author of Southern Discomfort and Rubyfruit Jungle.

“From the lyrical opening that sets up this story, Laura Lee 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. Heart of Palm 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.

Heart of Palm is a haunting tale of family, loss, love and deception that will stay with you long after you finish reading their tale. This is a wonderful debut novel not to be missed!” — Susan Schlesinger, Books on the Square, Providence, RI.

“I just finished Heart of Palm and absolutely loved it…The quote from Russo on the cover is a reminder of his writing but I must say, she is his equal.” — Gayle, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ.

“Smith tells a moving story that twists and turns in unexpected ways.” — Book blogger ProtoLibro.

“[The Bravos] are both unique and ubiquitous: one of the greatest families I’ve read about in a long time…Laura Lee Smith has just joined the ranks of the best Southern Writers. Don’t miss this one.” — Book blogger Maurice on Books.

 “If I were to recommend one book this year, it would be Heart of Palm.” — Book blogger CayoCosta.





20 thoughts on “Books by Laura Lee Smith

  1. This book transported me back to the area where I lived for 25 years before returning to Connecticut. Every description, from the foliage, heat, water in the Intracoastal, etc.l is spot on. I loved the Bravo family and they will be with me for a very long time. Thank you Ms. Smith for an unforgettable read. I hope this will only be the first of many books you will write. You have an amazing talent.

  2. Heart of Palm
    I love reading stories about places I have been to. I enjoyed Wendy Wax’s Florida and Dorothea Benton Frank’s Charleston. Yours did not follow their romantic bend and was so totally, frightening realistic. Your characters were intensely real and alive to the point that we could relate a little bit and see our own personality flaws in one character or another (and it wasn’t pretty). The characters were brutally honest characters that you could see into their souls and find their vulnerability. Great book! I hope you continue to write books about Florida. I especially love reading about Henry Flagler and Henry Plant and their era, and since you taught at Flagler’s college you would have a great background for writing many books.

  3. Loved the book! Until I moved to Florida two years ago, I lived in Philadelphia where, in 1950, the Society Hill neighborhood began a process called “gentrification.” To this day, older areas are still being revitalized but, of course, that means change and often displacement. In my travels south of Jacksonville Beach, I noticed cottages and trailers tucked between upscale houses, but hadn’t given any thought about how that might have happened until I read your book. Thanks for an engaging and realistic story.

    • Thanks for your comments! Yes, I know what you mean…the changes in many areas of the country are significant. Jax Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine–all feeling the effects of development and change. Presents challenges for many people but also, for better or for worse, creates story opportunities. Thanks again for writing, and all best to you.

  4. Laura, I just finished your book. When we met in Thomasville, Ga at the reader n writer’s event, you asked me to let you know how I found you book. I truly loved it. The characters are so awesome, believable. What a crazy, family! I found myself recognizing a character in someone I’d known. The story that is woven through your novel is beautifully done. One complaint….it ended too soon. I’m ready for sequel.
    Thank you for this fine novel!
    Joe Ann Hinrichs.

      • Yesterday while at the beauty shop in Tallahassee, another cliente noticed your book. She said-Oh I just finished that-isn’t it wonderful!
        I explained how we met you and how impressed we were with your talents.
        We agreed we are anxious for the next book. 🙂
        Joe Ann

  5. Pingback: Secrets | Laura Lee Smith

  6. Went on vacation and brought a stash of books from the library and your book was one of them. You did a great job writing this book. I am especially impressed that it was your first book. Awesome. I loved how you explained all your characters and brought them all together. Will be looking for your next book. Keep up the good work.

  7. A wonderful book. I ask myself how much “Bravo” is visible in every family.
    Our library in Germany had this book and I love it! All the best for you!

  8. This book was amazing!!!!! I need a sequel!!! You are the type of author readers can’t get enough of….I didn’t want this book to end. I’ll be looking for many more in the future.

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