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Reaction to... Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

I think it’s important, before I begin in any sort of way, to demand that you check out Angie’s blog, Angieville, and her review of this book. It’s the whole reason I requested this book from my library, actually paid attention to its due date, and MADE SURE I read it before then.

I was looking forward to this with a tentative sort of enthusiasm, the kind that is the love child of excitement and uncertainty, and I can blame my everlasting love of this book on Angie. Happily. She is the kind of blogger, if you don’t already know, who when she reviews a book and has a positive (or in this case, besotted) reaction, there’s an instantaneous draw now to that book.

I love many books, but always in different ways and in varying levels, which is why I tend to pay extra care in my reviews to make sure you understand the difference. But when Angie loves a book, that review becomes a force and there’s no need to figure out why and what kind of love it is. I’m so happy with this book; I can see floaty hearts everywhere. In a non-dangerous-mind way, of course. Anyway, if my review does NOT convince you to read NOWHERE BUT HOME, I implore you to check out Angie’s. Then, I can be assured that you most probably will.

Objectively, I don’t know what to make of the cover. I kind of get what they’re trying to do with it and what kind of message it’s supposed to send, but had Angie not reviewed it, I probably would’ve passed on it on the look alone. Which infuriates me, because I’m sure there will be other people who will do the same and miss out on one of my perfect books. But because this is now one of my all-time favorites, I’m completely biased and love it like crazy. Because it is attached to this book. And this book is gold.

SUMMARY: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.

The first thing you notice about Queen Elizabeth Wake is her disdain for anybody who dares pour ketchup on a perfectly good plate of eggs, and the fact that she got fired over it. Well, maybe that’s not completely true. Perhaps the first thing you notice is her name and the fact that she goes by Queenie (but I’m telling you, I love it, love her name and how freaking awesome it suits her; it really grows on you). Now that Queenie has been fired from this latest job after six months of investment, she has to once again leave another city behind in the long trail of US cities she’s already been to. It doesn’t take a genius to decipher the cause of her 10-year-long trek all over the country: Queenie is both running from something and trying to find something, but with no success. And the journey is finally catching up with her.

As she sits, all forlorn and lost, a phone call from her older sister has her warily picking up and heading on home to North Star, Texas, the last place she really wants to be. Because back home the women whisper behind their hands about BJ Wake, town slut, cruel woman, and failure of a mother, and look down, judge, and ostracize the two women she gave birth to. Because back home the agonizing despair and even more painful yearning for her first and only love, Everett Coburn of the mighty Coburn line, is too much to bear. And because back home it’s only more obvious that Queenie Wake is going nowhere. Except home, where the memories—good and terribly bad—are everlasting. Inescapable. Unbearable.

But as Queenie settles back in, she discovers a love of her sister and nephew she can’t help but regret she left behind, the excitement? and healing that comes from cooking last meals for the inmates at Shine Prison (leading her toward a closure she desperately needs), a place she never thought she had in the home she never believed was her own, and a chance at love that maybe never had a chance to blossom to its fullest capacity. Until now. NOWHERE BUT HOME is about a lost, secretly despairing woman finding hope, love, self, and home.

I would say NOWHERE BUT HOME is very much a character driven novel. But that’s not to say nothing particularly exciting happens, because in this small town there’s never any lack for entertainment and buried secrets making it’s way aboveground. Liza Palmer has an awesome gift: she brings North Star to life in everything, from the society gossips to southern customs to every plate of delicious southern cuisine, from attending church in your Sunday best every weekend to knowing what bourbon and branch means. She doesn’t have to describe the picture; it already exists and she’s just taking you to it and through it.

And learning it’s—North Star’s—secrets is about one of the most fascinating things to do. Because nothing is ever really secret in a small town, not like everyone would like to believe, so everything that’s been lurking in the shadows is actually just sitting in the shade where everyone can see. EVERYTHING, including Queenie and Everett’s “secret” affair, her nephew’s father’s “secret” identity, and so on. As Queenie steps back into her hometown, that instant is the start of the unraveling of everything that has happened in that town spanning the last twenty years. A riveting breakdown of stories that say something about every character you meet, and tells you why Queenie is seriously bitter about everything there.

Queenie specializes in quick wit and self-deprecating humor, the non-annoying kind I assure you. The ironic, dry, “come on, really? What’s next?” hilarious kind. There is so much cause for laughter in this book and she’s the guilty culprit. There were moments I’d have to put this book down flat on the open page right on my belly as I roared. But then there’s the other side of things. The point where you realize how miserable, lonely, and despairing Queenie really is. She’s been dealt a God-awful hand and has been bluffed out of the pot many, many times. And it’s not fair, and that’s all you can think, wanting to hurl curses and punches at all the injustice and hopelessness of it.
Do the people of North Star honestly think Merry Carole and I are just like her?
Merry Carole and I are the women North Star thinks we are. The women you're with in the shadows, but not the women you take to the Saturday dance. We're the women you're infatuated with, but not the women you love. The women who raise your unwanted children alone. The women who ruin you. The more Merry Carole and I fight the chains of our mother's legacy, the more they bind us.
She and her sister, Merry Carole, are never anybody else except harlots bred by the original Jezebel herself. No matter how good they are, quiet or careful, they are forever judged by the sins of their mother, and what’s worse, those damnable belles prey on them mercilessly, pouncing at the slightest mishap, slightest inkling of a mishap. And that’s part of why I love this novel so much: Merry Carole and Queenie don’t yell out a “suck it” and keep it moving, no, instead they learn how to be unaffected, to ignore the gossip and the judgment, and learn how to be happy, as they make decisions for themselves as if the crowd were invisible. Developing that skill, taking away the importance of other people’s opinions, is infinitely more satisfying.

I loved Queenie’s sister, the happiness she finds in her son whose eyes are nothing but “sweetness and light” as she’s so adorably fond of saying and the happiness she finds later on in so much more. I loved that Merry’s son is made of gold, a good kid through and through, and a pillar of hope in the family, a fresh start to the Wake name. I loved Fawn and Dee and Shawn and West. I loved Jace and the Dent boys. And I loved that those two 11-year-olds from twenty years back, who decided right then to have a secret romance, as adults end up with the best of everything, everything I could’ve hoped for.

  1. I HAVE TO SAY IT: The Number One
  2. Merry Carole And Hair
  3. The WAKE #5 Jersey
  4. Red Construction Paper And A Flower
  5. Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream *BAWLS*
  6. Everett Is Missing One Person In The Coburn Clan *CHEERS!!!*
I swear I am going back to young adult books. I know it seems like I’ve been on an adult contemp kick this week, but sometimes, you not only need that breather, but they’re just worth stepping outside of what you’re used to. I wanted to get NOWHERE BUT HOME read because I couldn’t renew it again and something in my gut made me not want to pass up the chance. And because I took that chance I have yet another all-time favorite to share with you, on par with Jellicoe Road and This Song Will Save Your Life and The Sky Is Everywhere. This book is just so beautifully crafted, a heart-full book that means so much to me.

NOWHERE BUT HOME is coming home with me, you’d better believe, as soon as I can find the time to order it. Because I can’t live without a copy of this in my collection. ‘Nough said.

Paperback / 384 pgs / April 2nd 2013 / William Morrow / Goodreads / $14.99

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.


Princess Ash said...

It's such a perfect kind of humor that guarantees whoever reads WILL laugh. Yeah, the cover indicates something I WOULDN'T read, honestly, so I'm really glad that Angie made a point of reviewing it because it's incredible. LISTEN TO ME. It is one of the most extraordinary books that's been passed to me. THANK YOU DARLING SAM <3

Princess Ash said...

Oh, yeah, definitely on par with those bad boys. Those books ALL made me feel something beyond what I thought I was capable of. Helped me touch a deeper emotion of some sort and so this book gets thrown in with them. YOU MUST READ THIS.

Princess Ash said...

Hmmm, you sound suspiciously like Mandee? :P

Princess Ash said...

I think you would be one of the people I can 100% safely recommend this book to. It's one of those perfect contemporaries, perfectly emotional, meaningful, and romantic. If you decide to take that break, GO FOR THIS ONE <3

Princess Ash said...

OMG, your review completely and utterly sold me on the novel within the first couple of paragraphs, so I had to only skim the rest so I wouldn't be spoiled! Putting it on my wishlist now! Small towns? Secrets? Great female characters? Yes yes please now gimme.

Princess Ash said...

It's one of the most beautiful books I've found this year and I hope you love it as much as I do. It has all of that and the writing is penetrative in its emotions. Like there is NO WAY you can be resistant to the emotional pull you feel toward each character, especially Queenie.