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Friday, March 30, 2018

'Nowhere But Home' by Liza Palmer

From the BLURB:

A brilliant, hilarious, and touching story with a Texas twist from Liza Palmer, author of Conversations With The Fat Girl (optioned for HBO)

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.

‘Nowhere But Home’ was a 2013 women’s fiction novel from US author Liza Palmer.

I have meant to read this book for the longest time, if only because it’s one that keeps getting thrown up in recommended reading algorithms all over the place. And while I really flew through the first 50 pages or so, I did find that my high-expectations somewhat soured my enjoyment of the book overall…

It’s about Queenie Wake, who returns to her hometown of North Star after she gets fired from another restaurant job, after being accused of lacking imagination for her own cooking and having an unearned arrogance towards customers. Coming home to North Star is a mark of failure for Queenie, whose mother had the reputation as the town harlot and who – along with her older sister – was so despised for her mother’s behaviour, that she wasn’t even allowed to be with her childhood sweetheart. Everett is from the golden family of town, and while he and Queenie had been in love since they were pre-teens, and carried out an affair all throughout high school and college – Everett ultimately buckled and married a woman set up for him by his family.

But what really drives Queenie to hate North Star is that it’s the place where her mama was murdered. Killed with a shotgun by her best friend, for sleeping with her husband in their marriage bed.

So it’s even stranger when Queenie takes up a job cooking last meals at the local prison. A job that makes her feel both slightly queasy and wholly inspired, all at once.

I really loved the start of this novel – with Queenie admitting defeat and coming home, getting to know her now grown nephew (and star quarterback) Cal, and reconnecting with her glamorous (if, downtrodden) older sister Merry Carole. I also loved getting to know the complicated and hurtful back-story to Queenie’s family and their bad reputation in North Star.

But things started to get a little boring for me, ironically, when Queenie takes the job as preparer of last meals at the prison. This takes up a chunk of the story, when I really wanted focus on her romance with Everett and a potential new suitor, a professor called Hudson who is studying inmates on death-row.

The Everett romance wasn’t hot enough, and the Hudson flirtation goes … weird. I loved Queenie’s family dynamics throughout, and her job is intriguing – I just feel like if the romance had hooked me more, it would have felt like a fuller, more full-circle novel.

That being said, I have had a peek at the blurbs for a few other Liza Palmer novels and a couple of them sound a little more romance-focused, so I’ll probably venture to her backlist again at some point.


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