Adult Fic Pick! Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

Posted July 22, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 18 Comments

Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
Published by William Morrow
Publish Date: April 2, 2013
384 Pages
Source: Library
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) 

Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer 

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. 

The first thing you need to know is this:
I love books set in the South – you guy know this – but I’m not sure
that I remember a book set so deeply in Texas, so rooted in Texas. 
I want to book the next plane out and find North Star, Texas and just live there. (Is that a real place?) When I first started this book, main character Queenie Wake was actually living in New York, trying (and failing) to make it as a Chef. After she gets fired from yet another job, she literally has no place left to go. What does she do? She goes home, reluctantly, to North Star, Texas. 

Now, see, this town means different things to everyone that lives there, and I get that, because that’s how every town is in real life. But reading about it – I just fell in love with the place. I don’t necessarily want to live in a small place where everyone knows the business of everyone else, but I love to read books like that. North Star is just that place, exactly. The problem with this? I’ll tell you. 

Queen Elizabeth Wake and her sister Merry Carole Wake (how much do you love those names?) were both the daughters of a very well-known woman-about-the-town, if you know what I mean. Everyone, everyone, everyone knew their mother and the name “Wake” is one that provokes lots of whispers and snickers and gossip, even now, years after her mother’s death. Queenie left town and hoped to leave that legacy behind while Merry Carole stayed there and faced it, hoping to make everyone think that it didn’t bother her (while inside, it tore her apart). 

North Star, Texas is basically like a glorified middle-school or high-school in some ways, only the people there are grown-ups with big Texas hair and lots of time to spread vicious rumors. This is part of what fuels the story and eventually what fuels Queenie to make some of her biggest decisions, WHICH I LOVE. 

(By the way, I’m not really picking on this town – it’s everywhere, this mentality and childlike behavior from adults. So, yeah.) 

The second thing you need to know is this:
I love football, and there is plenty of football in this book. 
I suppose it would be very much like Friday Night Lights?
Aahh, yes it’s true! I STILL haven’t watched the wildly popular Friday Night Lights, but I almost feel like I don’t have to now. (I will, no need to comment like crazy about it! Maybe even today?) 

Cal Wake, son of Merry Carole Wake, is a rising football star – and when I mean a rising star, I mean he is TALENTED. Rising to the position of QB1, starting quarterback, Merry Carole couldn’t be happier! I mean, Cal has risen far above their family legacy, right? He’s gone further than she and Queenie could ever go! The nasty rumors and hatred toward the Wake name hasn’t touched him, at least that’s what Merry Carole is hoping -and that’s fantastic news. What Merry Carole doesn’t realize is that as much as she’s tried and as sheltered as she thinks she’s kept Cal, he knows all of the rumors surrounding his mother and his aunt and his late grandmother, he just doesn’t talk about them. 

Did she think she could keep such secrets from Cal? In a place where talking is the biggest town pasttime? Puh-leez Merry Carole! That boy has known for years what people think of you, Aunt Queenie, and the grandmother he never knew. Seriously!

BUT…Cal has earned his position on the football team as QB1 despite being a rising freshman, and the family couldn’t be happier. Neither could the family’s friends. And neither could the rest of the community. 

What’s interesting about this is that through this football thing, this football position – even bigger secrets will come to light – secrets that have the potential to change lots and lots of things about North Star. Some of these things are issues that Merry Carole has worked SO HARD to keep under wraps her entire life and some she just assumes that Cal hasn’t figured out on his own – but again, Merry Carole is realizing little by little that she’s more naive than she thought and Cal is much smarter than she thought. High school boys just don’t often talk openly to their mothers. 

Things are about to change drastically in North Star, and some of it will be because of FOOTBALL. So exciting. 

The third thing you need to know is this:
There is so much food in this book. I love food. 
But I love even more that Queenie finds her place with food.  
When Queenie ran away from North Star years ago, she ran away as a Chef and has since worked in some very high-profile restaurants. She has skipped around the country and the world, working in some big, big places. It’s true that she never stayed long at any one place, and it was partly her stubborness that was the cause of this. Each time she came back to North Star, it was only for a short time before she was off to the next big opportunity in the next big city. In fact, she was pretty much the laughing stock of North Star for always coming home, staying a short time, and leaving again. 
But she has her reasons for this, see. (And she thinks no one knows about them. Silly girl.) 
While in North Star, Queenie takes an unusual job at a nearby prison cooking the last meals for the inmates on their execution day. While she probably should feel a lot of odd emotions about this job (she does), she also feels weirdly at ease. She loves having her very own kitchen that she can be in charge of, she loves having a few of the better-behaved inmates helping her with her prep work, and mostly – she loves making the recipes that each inmate requests. Why? Because they aren’t super-duper fancy like those all over the country and world have been – they’re down-home, Texas-style recipes. And these are her specialty. Queenie realizes that these recipes are the ones that she does the best, the ones that she loves to cook, and that maybe-just-maybe she could enjoy doing these for the rest of her life. Could she hang around and maybe try her luck at this, maybe open her own place? Or does she want to get away from North Star again? Queenie has yet to make up her mind. 
Just when she’s thinking that she may actually try to do these recipes for the rest of her life and be happy in the process, she gets a call from a high-profile restaurant thousands of miles away for a once-in-a-lifetime type of job – one that she’d previously applied for on a whim. What will Queenie do? Will she run again? Or will she choose to stay in small-town Texas where everyone knows her past, her business, and her legacy? 

Tough decision and one that isn’t to be made lightly. Queenie must think. 

Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer has to be one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read all year, and maybe longer than that. Aside from the cover, which immediately drew me in because IT IS AWESOME, the story and the summary kind of pulled me in. The thing that absolutely sealed the deal for me, though, was the solid endorsement from friend Hannah at So Obsessed With, as she has NEVER EVER ONCE steered me wrong with any book recommendation I’ve gotten from her. So now I’m passing this along to you all as a “Solid Recommend” from Hannah with my additional stamp of approval. 

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. 

Nowhere But Home will appeal to fans of:

Adult Fiction/Women’s Fiction/ChickLit with Romance
Romance: Slowly Developing. Second Chances, yes!
Great Setting: The South – Texas
Great Characterization
Strong Sense of Family, Sibling Relationships
*I loved everything about this book.*
Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
is currently available for purchase.


Have you read NOWHERE BUT HOME?
You should throw it on your to-read list!!! 
Do it!!! 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


18 responses to “Adult Fic Pick! Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

  1. This is the second glowing recommendation I've seen about this book, that plus Hannah's vote means I need to pick this up ASAP. Plus that cover is to DIE for. I'm hoping this is one I can share with my sisters and mom, who don't read as much YA as I do. LOVE that it has a strong family and especially sister theme. Plus food and one of those getting back to your first love romances? I am SOLD on this one. Also, I was born in Texas and I'm always up for a revisit. There are lots of this book in my library network so I just requested it and will take it to the beach next week! TY for sharing <3

    • Lauren, I'm almost SURE your sisters and mom would love this one. It's such a great story – sort of cliche in some places, but it WORKS and is perfect. Reading this one is like a breath of fresh air from so much of what is out there right now. The family element is so, so great and so are the friendships – but in particular the sisters, as I mentioned, and I know you love those sibling relationships like I do. And there is SO MUCH FOOD in this book with the preparation and practicing recipes and the care she takes with each one – it wasn't over my head at all, and I'm by no means a chef! And the whole Texas and football thing? SOLD. I just want to go BE in this town. Plus I didn't even mention all of the little secondary characters, the lesser-mentioned – I just loved them all.

      EXCELLENT CHOICE for taking with you! Let me know how you like it! I'd love to discuss it.

  2. I recently read this one and LOVED it! I'm so glad you enjoyed it too! It was such a deep and personal tale. I also read Seeing Me Naked by Palmer and adored that one as well. I'm just loving adult fiction these days!(: Great review, Asheley! 😀

    • I'd love to read more Liza Palmer! I read and love More Like Her, but it was a lot different from this book. I liked them both very much, but this one was just such a fun story from beginning to end. So glad you loved it too!

  3. Wow–this review is really one heck of a ringing endorsement! I love books that are the total package: great characters who experience true growth and development, solid family units, swoony, slow burn romance, and that whole finding-yourself-in-the-most-unexpected-of-ways theme. It sounds like it really spoke to you on a bunch of different levels, Ash. YAY for discovering new authors!

    And I'm with Lauren on that cover–hanging the stars–I love it:)

    • Yes, Heather, this book was just so good. I was almost reluctant going into it because it even SOUNDED too good to be true, but it really was a joy and a pleasure to read. I've read another book by this author but the book was a little different but now after reading two that I've enjoyed in two different ways, I would certainly read more by her!

  4. BAH! Okay! You have me convinced — absolutely convinced I need to read this book! Adding it to my TBR pronto. One thing that's been happening in my current read is tons of talk about food, but I'm not sure it's done quite as well as how you've described it here. I've had the desire to skip over the food prep parts (the MC is a baker/pastry chef). BUT small town Texas. Hellooooo, Magan's childhood. Really, thank you for pointing me to this review because I otherwise might have missed out on this awesome read. (And please don't take that to mean I don't read your blog. I peruse blogs much less than I'd like to these days because of the baby girl.) xoxoxo

    • HAHA Magan, I just feel like you'll connect with this book on at least some level, but I really think you'd like it. I know you're busy lately, so that's why I wanted to point this one out to you personally because literally the entire time I was reading my mind was going MAGAN MAGAN MAGAN…

  5. I read this a few weeks ago & loved it! reviewed it, too. such a great book. i loved everything you mentioned, too. I loved Merry Carole & Cal…all of it. Then I read another of her books, Seeing Me Naked and loved that one more. But, alas, it's not set in Texas and the characters couldn't come from more different backgrounds, but it was FANTASTIC. I am in Texas and I can recognize some of these characters, but you're right, they are not indicative of North Star, but everywhere. They're all over the place & they want to know everything about you and how to bring you down. Such a great book, though the MC took a little getting used to before I liked her.

    • I've read More Like Her, but not Seeing Me Naked – I'm thinking I should give that one a try, particularly since you loved that one even more!?

      I see what you're saying about the MC getting used to before falling for her – she was a little difficult in the beginning but her growth was really great and in the end, I really had fallen for her.

  6. I just how how passionate your review is, Asheley! You've made me strongly consider a book I'd otherwise probably skip over. Not gonna lie: the absolute best part about this book sounds like it's the relationship between the sisters. And that's awesome. I love a well-done family or friend relationship. I am definitely intrigued about what secrets the two sisters have been keeping from one another! I'm glad you felt as though this book gave you a taste of Texas and Southern life, even if you haven't watched Friday Night Lights yet (I haven't either, to be honest). Lovely review!

    • Amanda, these two sisters absolutely ADORE each other and I found that so lovely it was like a warm fuzzy with this book. They had to depend on each other because the rest of the town looked down upon them, and that's exactly what they did. It was not only a great relationship but it was written SO WELL, almost like the author wrote from her own personal experience (I don't know if she did or not). The secrets are so fun and interesting and made the book that much better. This is just one of those books that I read as an endorsement from another reading friend that *I'd* probably have glossed over as well, and it has ended up being a favorite of this year, probably. I'll definitely be re-reading it.

  7. I refused to read this review til I read the book.


    MY GOODNESS. Please can we move to North Star? It would make me so happy. Every SINGLE element of this book I fell in love with, exactly as you said.

    <3 <3


  8. My heart, Asheley. My heart. <3 It loves you so and this book so much.

    This is probably ONE OF MY VERY FAVORITE reviews you've ever written. I really do love it so much. This book was just something so special, and I'm glad you loved it so much.

    I know I haven't commented on anything you've specifically said but that's just because my heart is too much. THIS BOOK, A. THIS BOOK. GAHHHH! Yearly re-read, pretty please?

    (P.S. How much do you want an audio of this one?)

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