Five or so years ago, as if to entice me to peruse its pages, it called to me from its prominent position in a book shelf in my father’s home in Northcentral Florida, the place, ironically, that is the setting of much of the novel, A Land Remembered, written by Patrick D. Smith, and published by Pineapple Press in 1984 has been dubbed the quintessential Florida story.
Passed down to my father by one of his sisters, and to her by someone else, it is a book that passes from hand to hand, a book as immortal as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie; as masterful as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; as truthful as Marjorie Rawlings’ The Yearling—all of that as well as introductory pages as good as any that I have ever read, a chapter that has it all: a synopsis of the entire story; full-bodied characterizations; accurate depiction of its natural settings; thoroughly researched history; intriguing plot. It is the envy of writers everywhere.
That long ago visit to my father was occasioned by way of a road trip from my home in Columbus, Ohio to his in Interlachen, Florida, that time a journey shared by just my sister Sherri and me, the two of us taking turns at the wheel, and on the way home, also taking turns turning the pages of A Land Remembered. It was the quietest road trip of my life, one of us at the wheel, the other with her face buried in the book, we spoke barely a word to each other during all of those long hours. Having had a jump start on Sherri since I had begun the book prior to our leaving our father’s home, I finished it—I don’t know if Sherri ever did. It ended up in my possession, however, and there it will stay—a treasured compliment to my home library, as are all of his books currently in print.
This best-selling historical novel follows three generations of the MacIvey family, like the book’s author, transplants from Georgia to Florida, pioneering people in Florida’s hardscrabble interior who scratch a living from the unforgiving land and conquer it, and emerge as pre-eminent real estate tycoons of the state. A must-read for lovers of history, A Land Remembered is also available in a two-volume young reader’s version accompanied by a teacher’s manual, a necessity since it is taught in many schools in Florida. Spanning the years of 1858 to 1968, in words alive with the wild beauty and challenge of that bygone era of Florida, it portrays a life and a landscape unknown to most people of today.
Although A Land Remembered is his most popular work, Smith has written other novels, a book of nonfiction, and a collection of short stories. The River is Home, his first, chronicles a poor Mississippi family’s struggles against encroachment on their beloved rural land. Adapted into a motion picture, the powerful and moving Angel City is an exposé on migrant workers in Florida during the 1970s. Currently the two novels are printed in one volume. Forever Island and Allapattah (Seminole for “crocodile”) tell stories of one of Smith’s favorite subjects, Florida’s Seminole Indians, the former, known as the classic novel of the Everglades, its protagonist, Seminole Indian Charlie Jumper clings to the traditions of his people and passes them down to his grandson; the latter, a story of a young Seminole at odds with the world of the whites. These two novels are also available in one volume.
A southerner, Mississippi-born, -bred, and -educated, as a young man Smith emigrated to Florida by way of Georgia, and in Florida he has stayed. In 1988 retiring from Brevard Community College in Cocoa where he had worked as the director of college relations, his retirement years have been hectic with speaking engagements, his topic centered on how literature can better the world, he inspires audiences of all ages.
Recently, I read A Land Remembered again, my interest aroused this time by an article in the March 3rd edition of the Tampa Bay Times that I came across during a visit with my sister Susan in Crystal Beach, Florida on the Gulf Coast of the state, a piece titled, For ‘A Land Remembered’ and more, author honored. Penned by Times Book Editor, Colette Bancroft, the opening paragraph of the piece states: Novelist Patrick D. Smith is the winner of the 2012 Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing.
The award presented on March 21st at a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, Smith was unable to attend, the 84 year old writer having been homebound for a while due to injuries sustained in a fall three years ago. By telephone from his home in Merritt Island that he shares with his wife, Smith said, I’m real thrilled. This is a real nice award.
Patrick D. Smith is no stranger to winning awards for his writing. In addition to having been selected in 1996 by the Southern Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences for its highest literary award, and having been inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1999, Florida’s most esteemed cultural award, A Land Remembered has been designated as Florida’s most outstanding historical novel, winning the Florida Historical Society’s Tebeau Prize. The organization in 2002 also gave Smith its one-time-only Fay Schweim award for Greatest Living Floridian.
Books by Patrick D. Smith, published by Pineapple Press can be obtained by mail at P. O. Box 3889, Sarasota, Florida 34230; by telephone at 1-800-746-3275; or online at www.pineapplepress.com.
An award-winning artist, Linda’s artwork can be viewed at www.gallery-llgreene.com.
A best-selling author, Linda’s next novel, Guardians and Other Angels, will be available in the near future at Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.com.