March 12, 2015

Nowhere But Home - Liza Palmer

Nowhere But Home book cover
Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Paperback; Kindle

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?

Back when Cassie and Hannah were both enthusiastically book pushing Nowhere But Home on everyone, I listened to their advice and snagged it on Kindle. And then, last year, I snagged a physical copy that sat on my shelves for a few months. A couple of weeks ago, I was drawn to the book on my shelves, and decided I would finally take the plunge.

Best decision I've made in a while, y'all.

Nowhere But Home is a beautiful piece of literature. It captures a setting, a tone, a story so profoundly moving, yet so well-honed in simplicity and restraint. There are no extra bells and whistles here, but just the plain and simple truths of life in a small town as the daughter of a woman who had a reputation. Queenie's story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, with Palmer managing to maintain a great balance of both.

There has been plenty of gushing from my friends about this novel (Hannah's review, Cassie's review, Ellice's review, Judith's reviewMagan & Estelle's review, Rachel's review, Kelly's review), and today, I get to join in on the fun. 

If there's one thing readers need to know about Queenie, it's that she loves food and she loves preparing it. So, inspired by her love of a good dish, I'm presenting y'all with a menu of the delights that await you when (not if, but when) you picked up Nowhere But Home

Caesar salad (a fresh combination of characters) 

One of the main reasons I cared so deeply about Nowhere But Home was because I fell hard and fast for Queenie Wake, a woman who is trying to get her shit together. She knows what she loves (cooking, her sister Merry Carole, her nephew Cal), but she still hasn't figured out where she wants to be and what she wants to do for the rest of her life. As Palmer cleverly ties together her past, present and future, Queenie's journey from start to finish just kept me running alongside her, cheering her on. And she's not the only character I adore - there's her wonderful elder sister Merry Carole, her kind football star nephew Cal, their friends Fawn and Dee, Queenie's first love Everett, to name a few. 

Sweetened iced tea (a Southern setting)

I just wanted to visit North Star, Texas after getting a taste of that small town in Nowhere But Home. Having grown up in a small town, I found so many situations easy to relate to. People certainly talk about you, and have an opinion on your family, your choices, your looks. And it's easy for rumors to get out of hand, and the drama to get really intense. But a small town also means that people are friendly, and familiar for most of your life; in most cases, they're there for you in a pinch. There are town traditions, special things that bring everything together for the occasion. There are things about the place that you just don't see anywhere else, and that's what endeared North Star to me as I experienced it through Queenie. It's intense either way (good or bad), and Palmer captures that spirit perfectly.

Main Courses
Fried chicken (a familiar story)

Nowhere But Home is a combination of multiple plot points. Queenie's search for what to do with her future, even as she is forced to deal with her past. Her romantic entanglements, past and present. Merry Carole's persistence in making a home in North Star. Dealing with the "mean girls" of the town as they torment and tease. These themes have been included in other stories; what makes them unique here is the setting and characters in Palmer's execution. There is nothing wrong with the use of recognizable plots, as it pretty much ensures that a reader will identify with the story, no matter what their circumstances in life.

Mac and cheese (a glance at the past)

As mentioned above, there is a lot of history for Queenie and the rest of the Wakes in North Star - and a lot of it isn't very good. One of the best things about Nowhere But Home is how Queenie must confront the demons of her past. It is, without a doubt, one of the most moving aspects of the novel. Queenie and Merry Carole both have things in their past that are holding them back from embracing the present and future, and watching them work through their issues is a real treat.

Apple pie with vanilla ice cream (sweet relationships)

But key to this novel's real goodness, apart from what's already been mentioned, are the relationships. There are just so many great relationships in Nowhere But Home - whether it's family, friendship or romance. Honestly, Liza Palmer just gets it. She understands the nuances of each type, the way history + circumstance can affect how people treat one another. She tells it like it is, good, bad and everything in between, and the sincerity behind her writing is so clear. 

Receipt + Keep the Change

All I'm really trying to tell you is this: read Nowhere But Home. Don't let the hype intimidate you; don't put it off. This adult contemporary novel is seriously great, and I'm still sore at myself for waiting so long to indulge! So, don't follow in my footsteps, instead, take my word for it and snag a copy to read sooner rather than later. Nowhere But Home will charm you completely, and I guarantee you'll fall in love with Queenie, her family and friends and the little town of North Star just as much as I have.


  1. I finished this recently and absolutely agree with everything. I just adored this book and these characters, so so much and wish I could revisit them over and over.

    Also really love the way you formatted this review and now I'm craving fried chicken.

  2. I was totally floored by this book. I saw a lot of extremely positive reviews and randomly decided to pick it up one day.. I really wish I could have stayed with the characters and the story forever. I can't wait to pick up more Liza Palmer books!

  3. I heard such good things about this that I bought it a few weeks ago. I can't wait to read it!

  4. "She still hasn't figured out where she wants to be and what she wants to do for the rest of her life." Sign me up! Thank you for putting this on my radar, Alexa! Thoughtful review. Sometimes you really just have to consume books with familiar plot lines; there's something comforting abt that.


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