August 14, 2013

Follow the North Star

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer

Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins | William Morrow
Pages: 384 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Paperback
Amazon Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
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?

Thoughts on Nowhere But Home
Let's just start with the honest to goodness truth: I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!

I read Nowhere but Home back at the beginning of June and have had this draft post just sitting there since then. I just loved this book so much that everything I write about it seems inadequate. What words can I string together to convince you that this is a book that is so deserving of your attention? This is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've read this year. 

I gave it five stars on Goodreads, and I noted that it made me tear up twice because that never happens to me while I'm reading. It's almost two months later, and I still think about this book. I'm already hankering for a re-read just because I want to spend more time with these characters.

Okay, let me back up a little bit. I first spotted Nowhere but Home at Target, one of my favorite places to look for new releases and up-and-coming titles. I was immediately drawn to this cover - the image, the font, the colors, the title itself... everything about it just screamed READ ME. I didn't buy it that first day, but I ended up going back a week later because I knew I needed to own this book.

Nowhere but Home opens with Queenie Wake being fired from yet another job. She's a chef, but she can't always keep her opinions to herself. And now she has nowhere to go. No job, no money, no future prospects. What's a girl to do? She makes a last-minute to go home - a place she left the minute she graduated high school. Although her sister and nephew still reside there, she's convinced that the town holds nothing good for her.

Growing up in North Star, Texas, wasn't exactly easy for Queen Elizabeth (Queenie) and Merry Carole Wake. Everyone knows about their mother - her reputation hasn't been easy to live down. And Merry Carole having a baby out of wedlock doesn't do anything to help these girls from the wrong side of the tracks. They lived with the looks, snickers and whispers for all of their lives. That's why Queenie took off at the first opportunity and never looked back.

North Star is a small town, and that means exactly what you think it does. Everyone is in everyone else's business. You can't do anything without everyone else noticing and remarking upon it. You can't create a new future for yourself in a place where you can never escape your past. Or can you?

Here's the thing, this book felt so Southern. It's like I could feel the Texas heat rising off the page... and see all the secrets hiding in all that big hair. And the food. Good gracious, y'all! Food plays a key role in this book in a way that's so moving and touching. Why? Queenie takes a job in North Texas cooking last meals for inmates on death row. Her reflections on why they'd choose what they did and her desire to get it exactly right was so endearing. She may be a lot to handle, but she's damn good at what she does.

Asheley from Into the Hall of Books noted in her review: "Queenie has been all over the place in an effort to avoid going home, back to North Star, because that's where both her heart and her heartache lies."

I mean, hello, doesn't that sentence just pack a punch? Asheley nails it, and the joy of Nowhere but Home is in watching Queenie rediscover her heart and confront her heartache. 

Queenie's relationship with her sister is so authentic and genuine. You can feel the tension there. From Queenie leaving and Merry Carole staying behind. From the shadow of their mother's reputation. From the misunderstandings and hurts from their past. From the secrets they keep today. All of those strings have become knotted and have hurt their relationship. And yet they still love each other fiercely.

There are so many things that just got to me in this one. The idea that you can't escape your past. The feeling that you'll never be good enough. The experiences that alter your view of yourself and your value. All of it was just powerful and moving.

I raced through the book, but I savored it at the same time. I'd go back and re-read a paragraph just to linger with it. I have so much more I could say - so many other things that just made this book such a great read. But instead, I'll leave you with a list that will hopefully convince you to take the plunge.

10 Reasons You Need to Read This Book RIGHT NOW:
  1. Southern.
  2. Secrets.
  3. Sisters.
  4. Secondary Characters.
  5. Savory Eats.
  6. Seriously Good Drama.
  7. Second Chances.
  8. Sports (Football).
  9. Saying Goodbye.
  10. So Much Falling in Love.
Seriously, y'all, what are you waiting for? I do declare, this book was gooder than grits. It's funny, but not fluffy. It's sad, but not depressing. It's Southern, but not a stereotype. It's this perfect blend - like mixing sweet tea and lemonade - that resulted in a read I won't ever forget. So glad I found this story and took a chance on this small town!

So Quotable
"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. People walk around me on the street as if I'm not even there. It's quite something. I left North Star because I was tired of every move I made being tracked and judged by a cabal of gossiping ladies. I oftentimes wished I could go unnoticed as I move through my life in that tiny town and now here I am. Utterly invisible. Dreams do come true, kids."

18 comments:

  1. Clearly I am missing out on something really special by not reading this book--because it has been highly endorsed by Ash, Lauren, Keertana, and now YOU, Hannah! I love every thing on your ten reasons why list, EVERY SINGLE ONE of them.

    I am sold:) Heading to do a little shopping myself later--I'll have to see if my Target carries it too:)

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    1. YAYYYYY! I hope you love it whenever you get a chance to read it :) It was such a wonderful book!

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  2. I've had this one on my TBR. You've convinced me I need to read it sooner rather than later. Beautiful review.

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    1. SUCCESS! I want everyone to read this book haha!

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  3. fantastic review. i read this around the same time as you and had the same feelings. it was such an amazing book with these authentic, flawed, beautiful characters. it took a while for me to warm to Queenie, but i loved Cal & Merry Carole right away. everything about it was just about perfect. ~daphne

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    1. I'm so glad you loved this book! It was such great read, and I was in the perfect mood for it. I loved the characters so much! I agree that Queenie was a little prickly, but I ended up just loving her so much. I can't wait to read more from Liza!

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  4. Wow! I've never heard of this book before, and I've clearly been missing out! I am putting this on hold at my library immediately. Thank you for the beautiful review! I can't wait to get my hands on this one. It sounds fantastic!

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    1. Oh my goodness, yes! I'm so excited that you want to read this book :) It is a fantastic read, and I hope you love it too :)

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  5. I mean, FOOD AND THE SOUTH!? WIN. Purchasing this on my Kindle TOMORROW. [payday ;)] It shall be my payday treat to myself!!

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    1. NEVER FORGET WHO INTRODUCED YOU TO THIS BOOK. ;)

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  6. This is the first I've seen this one, but your review definitely has me intrigued. I'll definitely have to look out for it!

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  7. I WANT TO CRY JUST READING THIS. Aaahh this book is SO GOOD. Definitely in my top books for the year. And like you, I struggled with exactly what to say. How do you say adequate words when all you want to do is just buy a bazillion copies and put the book in the hands of everyone you pass and yell READ THIS!

    And this: "Here's the thing, this book felt so Southern." Oh my goodness, yes. So Southern in every sense. I think I could smell the food, even. I just have no adequate words even here to discuss with you how much I loved it except that YOU GET IT, YOU GET WHY I DO. xo

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    1. OH GIRL. I am so glad your Southern self read this and loved it too. Isn't that feeling the best? When you love a book so much that you don't even know how to tell other people about the love. Buy a bazillion copies and pass it out to everyone? HECK YES.

      AND I SO GET IT. xo

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  8. Whoa. I can tell you loved this so much. What a review. Added to my Goodreads. I know Cassie is reading it or just finished it? I love everything you've said. I also love food.

    Thanks for sharing dear. What an awesome cover too!

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    1. I'm so glad you've already purchased this one! And I'm glad Cassie helped book push this into your life :)

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  9. Your review seriously sounds amazing! I wanted to read it after seeing Asheley's review, but now even more after reading yours! The 10 things on your list are precisely the reasons I would want to read this one. So glad it moved you so much, and I'm definitely keeping an eye on this one because it got such high praise from you!

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    1. Oh Alexa, I think you would love this book. It was just such a special read, and I want everyone to experience the magic :) I hope we can discuss if you end up reading it!

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