I have been meaning to read another Liza Palmer novel ever since Seeing Me Naked surprised me by how good it was. So many other titles have distracted me and I wasn’t able to get back to her writing until I recently picked up Nowhere But Home. I was feeling a little homesick and thought it would be a good idea to read a book about coming home. I found it funny that the main character is named Queen Elizabeth because this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard of someone with that name – Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao chose that name for his second daughter. I had a feeling it would be interesting getting to know Nowhere But Home’s Queenie and I was right. Also, how pretty is that cover? I like the vintage, nostalgic design of it and I think it goes well with the story even though the picture portrayed in it isn’t an actual scene in the book. Here’s the summary from Liza Palmer’s website: After Queenie Wake is dismissed from her restaurant job, she returns to North Star to cook meals for death row inmates. Hopeful that the bad memories of her late mother and promiscuous sister (now the mother of the captain of the high school football team) have been forgotten by the locals, Queenie discovers that some people can’t be forgotten — heartbreaker Everett Coburn — her old high-school sweetheart. When secrets from the past emerge, will Queenie be able to stick by her family or will she leave home again? A few pages in and I knew Nowhere But Home will be a very good read. Right from the start, I kept highlighting lovely passages that stood out for me. Queenie and her sister Merry Carole, grew up with the stigma of being daughters of the town slut. Nothing much was expected of them and Queenie wanted nothing more than to leave all of that behind. Which is why she has been flitting from one city to another, doing any kind of work that would let her stay away from her hometown. My heart went out to Queenie and Merry Carole for the difficult life that they’ve had, for everything that they’ve had to go through because of their mother’s reputation. I used to think small towns must be charming with how close-knit and warm everyone is but there’s an ugly side to it. Queenie is such a prickly character at the start of the novel but I liked her right away. She has more than enough reason to be like that. I might not have had the same experience that she did but I understood her reactions. Here’s a passage early on, before Queenie decides to go home, that resonated with me:
“I can’t be the only one faking it. I’m not the only lonely small-town girl drowning in this big city. I’m not the only refugee feeling invisible and alone. I’m not the only one who wants to scream, “NOTICE ME! I MATTER!” Maybe everyone is faking it. Maybe they’re just better at it than I am.”
THIS. Even though I was born and raised in a city instead of a small town, I get what Queenie feels. Maybe that’s why home is such a comforting place – it’s where you don’t have to feel invisible or alone. Even if being visible means being judged by others, like in Queenie’s case. I loved that each chapter heading was about a meal – either one that Queenie just had or one that she cooked. Seeing as I’m a big fan of food, I was able to appreciate this. Queenie is passionate about the meals that she cooks, she believes in the comfort that food is able to provide. When things get too much for her, she also turns to cooking:
“I need to cook something. I need to lose myself in something else besides the fractured light of my own memory.”
Beautiful wording, right? Another instance where I could relate to Queenie – just replace cooking with reading because I lose myself in books all the time. The reason why Queenie cooks is the reason why I read. Nowhere But Home is filled with the heartaches of Queenie’s life but all that pain is soothed away by a strong sense of family and belonging. Plus there’s such a beautiful, bittersweet romance that I was more than happy to devour. If anything, I would have loved for there to be more romance in this book. As it is, I loved spending time with Queenie as she tries to battle her demons and figure out what she’s meant to do with her life. Queenie’s hometown, North Star, is also very big on football (one character mentioned that it’s like Friday Night Lights with how serious everyone is about the sport) and that’s something that I’m NOT familiar with and yet it didn’t affect my reading experience. I only mention it now because I know some readers might be drawn to the book because of that aspect. I feel like Nowhere But Home is contemporary romance (or literature for women? I’m not really sure what to call it) that has more depth than chick lit. It is more emotionally layered and complex, and can make readers ache and feel for the characters. I would love for more readers to pick up Liza Palmer’s novels because I feel like they aren’t getting the attention that deserve. Nowhere But Home is one of the best books that I’ve read this year, I feel like it was exactly what I was looking for when I picked it up. I look forward to reading the rest of the author’s back list. I think Nowhere But Home has the same tone and feel as Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols and All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield, it just has older characters instead of teens. I recommend that fans of those two books give Liza Palmer’s latest a try. Other reviews: Angieville Ivy Book Bindings write meg!