Book Review: Nowhere But Home

Nowhere But Home
Published By: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Page Count: 384
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher 
Audience: Adult - Contemporary Fiction

"I'm lost. I'm alone. I've got nowhere to go. Nowhere but home" (pg. 21). This line stuck with me as I read through Liza Palmer's most recent novel, Nowhere But Home. Like the main character, Queenie, we often find ourselves in impossible situations, leaving us with only one place we can find solace - home. The notion of home is an intriguing one. Is home the place we grew up? Is home the people we surround ourselves with? Is home more of a state of mind rather than true location? Is the notion of home different for different people? I find the whole notion of what is a home and how do people view their homes to be fascinating concepts. I know my own personal definition of home and like Queenie, it is the place where I can find support and shelter from loneliness. As an adult, I often wish I could return to my childhood moments. They offered such a sense of security that I find lacking from time to time when tragedy strikes - as it has all too often in our nation in recent months. It was nice to lose myself in Queenie's world and her problems for awhile.

I knew Queenie must have had a rough time when it was revealed early on that her full name was Queen Elizabeth Wake. Who does that to their child? Queenie is from a small Texas town that is full of big personality. Everybody knows everybody and the gossip rolls through town quicker than a tumbleweed in a tornado. There isn't one secret that hasn't been discovered and old prejudices die hard in North Star, Texas. Queenie fled the town the moment she graduated high school and never looked back. A broken heart and her last name keep her from returning, but a string of bad luck lands her right back where everything started. Queenie must discover for herself what home means and try to find a way to bury the pain of her past.

I loved Queenie; her wit and sarcasm kept me in stitches. I also really enjoyed watching her evolve throughout the book. I knew she was destined for more when the book began and she was working as a chef at a hotel in New York City. That life didn't seem to fit her. She really begins to shine when she returns home to North Star. Her interactions with her family, friends, and old flame made this book hard to put down. The small town gossip meal and social class politics were realistic and heart breaking. However, there were quite a few moments when Queenie's response to the town Queen Bees made me chuckle. That girl has spunk!

One of the most interesting elements of this novel is Queenie's job as the chef at Shine Prison; she has the gloomy task of cooking the last meals for inmates on Death Row. I don't think I would have the strength to do something like that, but Queenie pulls it off. Her attention to detail - even knowing a murderer will be eating her food - is amazing. Queenie puts so much love and care into making sure the dishes for the inmates recreate happier moments and provide a moment of comfort. She was able to put aside her feelings about the criminals and focus on creating one perfect meal for their last moments on Earth. I was in awe of her strength.

Furthermore, I really enjoyed how the concept of food played such a large role in this story. Food is symbolic of who we are and often has roots deeply entrenched in family. This proves to be true for Queenie. Her recipes define who she is and her place in the town. It's also through food that she can mend broken bridges and repair some of the damage she did by leaving so abruptly. Food has the power to soothe our wounds and make us whole again; it is one of the few things that can bring us together and transcends social boundaries. I loved watching that concept crop up in each and every chapter. In fact, each chapter even begins with a brief menu that foreshadows how things are about to go for Queenie.

Another element I loved was the southern culture. Texas is an interesting place with a culture that mirrors much of the South while still having many tendencies that are unique to the state. Texas does things to a bigger degree than the rest of us southerners. I loved the big hair, big plates of BBQ, and big tall glasses of sweet tea that littered the pages of this novel. Palmer does a beautiful job of bringing the Texas Hill Country to life; her setting is like an additional character, always hovering in the periphery. I love stories that use a strong sense of place.

One of my favorite parts of southern culture that made an appearance in this book: FOOTBALL! I am already counting down the days until the season begins again in the fall. As Queenie says, "However you praise the Lord, be it Baptist, Methodist, or Catholic, the true religion in Texas is football" (pg. 14). I would say this holds true for most of the South.

If you're looking for a chick lit novel that brings up some pretty complex issues, then this is a must read. I liked that there was a nice balance between the serious and the fun. This isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but it does have a lot of self discovery and romance. At its heart, Nowhere But Home is a commentary on finding one's place in a family. In the end, family is often all that matters - even when that family has several skeletons in their closet. 

I loved every moment spent with Queenie and now consider her a close literary friend. I'm sure I'll be rereading this one in the future when I'm craving some down home cooking and a bit of sass.

One Last Gripe: I want more of North Star and its residents. I wasn't ready for the story to end.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: I really enjoyed Liza Palmer's writing style and how she brought her characters to life. I've already added her other works to my TBR list.

First Sentence: My mother was an unwed teenager from the Texas Hill Country.

Favorite Character: Queenie

Least Favorite Character: Piggy Peggy

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.

About the Author

Liza Palmer is the internationally bestselling author of Conversations with the Fat Girl , which has been optioned for series by HBO. 

Library Journal said Palmer’s “blend of humor and sadness is realistic and gripping,..”

After earning two Emmy nominations writing for the first season of VH1’s Pop Up Video, she now knows far too much about Fergie.

Palmer’s fifth novel, Nowhere but Home, is about a failed chef who decides to make last meals for the condemned in Texas. Nowhere but Home will be out April 2, 2013. 

Tuesday, April 2nd: Book Hooked Blog
Wednesday, April 3rd: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Thursday, April 4th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, April 8th: The Book Garden
Tuesday, April 9th: A Dream Withing a Dream
Wednesday, April 10th: 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, April 11th: Short and Sweet Reviews
Monday, April 15th: I Read a Book Once
Tuesday, April 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, April 23rd: Reading Lark
Wednesday, April 24th: Melody & Words
Thursday, April 25th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, April 26th: West Metro Mommy


  1. Ooh, this book sounds like a charmer for sure! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  2. Queenie's sarcasm sounds like something that would really endear me to the book. The way you describe this book reminds me of some of my favorite books!

  3. I have been wanting to read this novel for awhile!


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