Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
Published by William Morrow
Publish Date: April 2, 2013
Find it here: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N
Queenie Wake, a country girl from North Star, Texas, has just been fired from her job as a chef for not allowing a customer to use ketchup. Again. Now the only place she has to go is home to North Star. She can hope, maybe things will be different. Maybe her family’s reputation as those Wake women will have been forgotten. It’s been years since her mother-notorious for stealing your man, your car, and your rent money-was killed. And her sister, who as a teenager was branded as a gold-digging harlot after having a baby with local golden boy Wes McKay, is now the mother of the captain of the high school football team. It can’t be that bad…
Who knew that people in small town Texas had such long memories? And of course Queenie wishes that her memory were a little spottier when feelings for her high school love, Everett Coburn, resurface. He broke her heart and made her leave town-can she risk her heart again?
At least she has a new job-sure it’s cooking last meals for death row inmates but at least they don’t complain!But when secrets from the past emerge, will Queenie be able to stick by her family or will she leave home again? A fun-filled, touching story of food, football, and fooling around. -(summery excerpt from Goodreads)
My Thoughts: I’ve always wanted to 1) visit Texas and 2) watch Friday Night Lights and I’m convinced that this is the closest I’ve ever come to accomplishing either of these two goals. I loved every single second.
I love books set in the South – you guy know this – but I’m not sure
I love football, and there is plenty of football in this book.
Tough decision and one that isn’t to be made lightly. Queenie must think.
I put myself on the hold list at my library thinking it would be a while before it became my turn, but I was actually shocked how quickly my turn rolled around (isn’t that how it always goes – you get all these books at once?). So then I thought – GRRR, I HAVE ALL THESE BOOKS TO READ FIRST, THIS ONE WILL HAVE TO WAIT! But friends, I just couldn’t. This one sat by my bed and I thought that I’d just read the first chapter to get a feel for it, and then before I knew it I WAS SO INVESTED and then I stayed up way too late to finish it! I couldn’t help it.
See, Queen Elizabeth Wake has this life that is just going nowhere, or at least that how she feels about it. Queenie has been all over the place in an effort to avoid going home, back to North Star, because that’s where both her heart and her heartache lies. Doesn’t that happen so often? I mean, if I were to be honest with you all right now – and I am, so take me seriously – that’s why I left my hometown. And honestly, I may be/possibly/eventually getting back to where the place where I might want to move back there. But Queenie doesn’t feel the same – she sees getting fired from this latest restaurant in New York City as a huge failure and moving back to North Star, Texas as her last resort, as having no place left to go. She has Nowhere But Home (Do you like what they did there? I did, thought it was cute.)
So she arrives back home into the welcoming and comfortable and loving arms of her sweet and incredibly cliche sister Merry Carole Wake, the beauty salon owner with hair as big as Texas and her son, North Star’s upcoming freshman starting Quarterback, Cal. Now what you know by this point is that the Wake family is basically the laughing stock of the town because of their mother’s legacy – precisely one-half of the reason Queenie left and precisely the reason why Merry Carole stayed. Where Queenie tried to run from this past, Merry Carole stayed to face head on and make everyone think it doesn’t bother her. With her shoulders up and her chin up and her head held high with that big hair and her ridiculous clothes, Merry Carole just takes what the town gives her, doing her best to shelter her teenage son from any of the vicious slander and harm thrown their way. The two things about this is that 1) words DO hurt and Merry Carole is very affected by the townspeople, she just doesn’t cry in front of them and 2) Cal isn’t stupid – he hears the rumors and has known about them for years. He knows his family legacy but chooses not to participate in it. He just wants to play football, so he ignores it and chooses to concentrate on is passion. (Cal is an incredibly cool character, by the way, for such a young male teenager.)
Queenie and Merry Carole are fantastic together. They are a FANTASTIC sibling relationship for those of us that love that dynamic. They support one another, they share one another’s burdens, and they have each other’s backs. They bounce ideas off of one another and genuinely just enjoy one another’s company. AND AND AND they actually do have a strong support system in town, a few good friends that have chosen not to get caught up in the mean talk and backstabbing and general small-mindedness that often comes along with small town, USA. Their little circle of friends are utterly fantastic.
One of the most fascinating things about Queenie and Merry Carole is that they both have been keeping secrets from one another all of their lives – for something like twenty years! I mean, BIG SECRETS – the kind that sisters often tell each other. I’m not going to give them away because they make for sure FUN TIMES in the book when they are revealed, but this is an extra facet to their relationship that I found extremely charming and pretty hilarious. I literally and genuinely think that these two sisters are among my favorites in fiction.
I mentioned part of the reason that Queenie left North Star, but I haven’t yet mentioned the other half of the reason, and it has to do with the romance aspect of this book. Queenie has been in love with the same man her entire life – Everett Coburn. I think she may have fallen in love with him somewhere around Kindergarten, but was deemed “not good enough for him” by his family’s standards. His parents wouldn’t allow him to date her, so they had to share their passionate love affair for one another all the way through college and then the unthinkable happens when he has to marry another woman, a woman from a “respectable” family. This, friends, is probably the final icing on the cake for Queenie taking off, and yet she has never gotten over her love for this man. So OF COURSE when she comes back to town, she sees Everett whom she still loves, and all of her feelings come back, rushing in like a giant wave breaking over the shore. I could feel that for her when I was reading and it kind of broke my heart to begin with.
The Queenie-and-Everett story line portion of this book was one that made me have a roller coaster of feelings – on the one hand, GOOD GRACIOUS, girl, tell him how you feel! You’re an adult now and YOU CAN DO IT. And eventually, the two do talk in an awesome adult way, have a great conversation, and even though I don’t like the outcome of that conversation – it was there and VOILA. But you know guys, it’s everything that happens after that, how information is revealed bit-by-bit about how things have unfolded in North Star since Queenie left that she is unaware of…let me just say that old flames die hard, you guys. And apparently they are sweet to read about against a small-town Texas backdrop where there is food and football involved. These two made me a bit crazy but I just loved it a lot.
I mentioned earlier in this reviews about Queenie’s job as a Chef cooking last meals requests for death row inmates on the day of their executions. When I first came upon this section of the book, I honestly thought this would be a small part of the plot and didn’t expect it to be so LARGE in Queenie’s life and decision-making process on whether to stay around North Star or move on again. Reading these parts of the book – how they affected Queenie, the love she had in her very own kitchen as Head Chef vs. the knowledge that she was cooking-with-love for some people who did some very bad things – it was such an interesting thing to incorporate into the story! I’d have never thought to include this in my plot and I applaud Ms. Palmer for making the story interesting in this way. Not only was it just plain interesting, but it was the jumping off point for so many scenes and other plotlines in the story, it added to the dynamic of several relationships Queenie had, and in the end, it was a huge part of Queenie’s character development. I really just loved it. A ton.
I could keep talking about how much I loved the characters, including the secondary characters – which included the mean girls (and they were mean!) and the football team – and the amazing, amazing setting, but I really think I’ve talked enough on this book. Just know that I picked it up on a recommendation thinking that I would like it and had to FORCE MYSELF not to email in !!!!! and capslock on practically every page with passages that I loved, quotes that stuck out to me, or scenes that made me laugh. This is a fantastic book, you guys, one that is to be loved, and I’m so very glad that I read it. It is not my first Liza Palmer – I’ve read and enjoyed More Like Her – but I do believe that this is my favorite, as you can tell by the length of this post.
I highly, highly recommend Nowhere But Home to fans of Adult Fiction/Women’s Fiction/ChickLit, fans of food or football, and fans of the South, specifically the great state of Texas. If you love books that incorporate family into the mix, this one is for you. If you love sibling relationships, this is for you. If you love the slow-burn of second chances, this one is for you. I have all ideas that you will not be disappointed. Brilliant, brilliant story.
*I loved everything about this book.*