Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nowhere But Home, by Liza Palmer

While I have a few friends from the State of Texas, I've never been there myself.  But in reading Liza Palmer's latest release, Nowhere But Home, I found it possible to wish I was a native like the residents of North Star, home to Queenie Wake and her sister Merry Carole.

Queenie, (short for Queen Elizabeth), a chef with a temper and a chip on her shoulder,  gets fired from her latest position in New York City, and with no where else to go, she's forced to head home to Texas, and her sister and nephew, in the Hill Country town of North Star. She's been working in different cities, trying to outrun her feelings for the man she was in love with since she was eleven years old, Everett Coburn. "Ever," a man from one of North Star's golden families, was persuaded by his family to end his relationship with  the daughter of the town "floozie." Unfortunately for both Queenie and Everett, there would never be anyone else.

Queenie returns to live with Merry Carole and Cal, her nephew (the star quarterback on the high school football team). She gets a job cooking in a state prison for death row prisoners and while the job is stressful in ways she couldn't begin to imagine, she's the master of her own kitchen and begins to understand how her past and her upbringing have colored her outlook on this small town and its inhabitants. And she puts into motion what she needs to put the past behind her.

Filled with touches of Queenie's unique humor,  Nowhere But Home is actually a coming of age story, for Queenie, her sister, her nephew, their friends, Everett and even the town mean girls, who after all these years, still try to intimidate the Wake sisters until their own pasts catch up to them. All must learn to put the past where it belongs, and change the things about themselves that can be changed, while coming to terms and accepting everything else that cannot.

Liza Palmer, in a wonderfully written contemporary story, reminds us that no matter how old we are, there is still growing up to do, a past to put into perspective, and that love, in the end, can conquer all. It's a potent recipe for a very satisfying read.

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