I have a nice little treat for you this week in this week’s Book of the Week. Normally, I do book reviews for young adult novels but this time around, I’m reviewing an adult contemporary/chick-lit novel.
So those of you who are like, ohmygod Sara, please review something besides YA, we are SOOOO tired of it: this is for you!
adult, contemporary, romance, chick-lit
Part of a Series?:
You May Like if You Liked:
Liza’s other works, Meg Cabot’s adult works
The novel follows Queenie Wake’s return to her small hometown, North Star, in Texas. She lived there her entire life, with her sister Merry Carole and her mother, BJ Wake, the fastest woman in town. Her mom is murdered when she’s in school, murdered by a lover’s wife. Pair that with a secret relationship with a boy from one of the richest and most upstanding families in town, and Queenie is in over her head. When the love of her life tells her that he must marry another, to preserve the family name and reputation, she flees, and continues fleeing for ten years.
Fast forward to now. Queenie is fired yet again from a restaurant, and is left jobless and homeless. A phone call home to her sister Merry Carole brings her home, where the Wake girls are still as unaccepted as they were before. The taint of her mother’s scandal and murder still remains, though her sister is determined to change them, as her son is now the starting quarterback of the high school football team as a freshman…and we all know football is basically a religion in Texas. Merry Carole is seriously dating the head football coach. Queenie’s ex love is divorced and still madly in love with her. But Queenie isn’t back in North Star for the long run…
Then Queenie gets a job at the local prison, cooking last meals for the prisoners. This puts a lot of things in perspective for her, and everything: her mother’s scandal, the murder, her sister’s life and love life, her nephew’s ascent into society, her exboyfriend, her life and career and future, and she just may figure it all out.
I adore Liza Palmer, I do. She’s one of my favorite authors and she’s a great influence for me. That being said…I don’t believe this is one of her best works. I felt…like it was trying too hard to be a Southern novel. I have read novels that take place in the South, and have the Southern feel to them, but in those, it seems almost as if the Southern feel came to the pages without the author consciously trying to put them there. In this novel, it felt forced. The “ma’am”s, and “honeys” and mention of barbeque just seemed really forced, and honestly, very stereotyped. It doesn’t seem too unusual as Palmer lives here in Southern California and her other books (Conversations with the Fat Girl, Seeing Me Naked, More Like Her and A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents) all take place in Southern California. I think maybe she wasn’t as comfortable writing a novel in a place she was unfamiliar with, or at least I assume she’s unfamiliar with, and it comes across in the novel.
I also think the ending was a little…*too* predictable. Without ruining the story for those who may want to read this, it just seemed to cookie cutter, too perfect. I understand having things wrapped up but not everything really works out like that, especially with the sort of things that Queenie has to deal with. I was hoping for a little more a struggle to get to the end, but it wrapped up nicely, with a bow on top.
That being said, there is good to this novel, even though, like I said, it wasn’t quite as good as her previous novels. I think Palmer pulls in some things that make it a good novel.
One, Liza’s writing never stops being good. She’s a great writer, able to write meaningful prose but in a very contemporary and easy-to-read manner. I hesitate to call her chick-lit because that gets such a negative reputation. She has the chick-lit feel, that sort of beach read feel but with a sophistication that you don’t often see as much in the chick-lit genre. It reminds me a lot of Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed.
I also think that the story was something that you don’t often see when reading a novel. I’ve seen the scandalous family before, the Southern small town feel, the mean girls vs. the lower class girls, etc. But its not often that you see it come back to something so real and harsh. Queenie’s mother is found in bed with Yvonne Chapman’s husband and they are both then murdered by Yvonne. This is very intense. Its not often you see that sort of thing, especially in a chick-lit novel. And then you add in the fact that Queenie’s mother’s murder is not…its not something the town gets outraged at, or mourns. They are more sympathetic to Yvonne Chapman, who was nice to BJ Wake and took in her kids when they had no where to go, and ends up with a cheating husband. The Wakes are even more ostracized.
I also think that Queenie’s job is very intriguing…and the way she approaches it as well. She’s making last meals for prisoners. She is cooking these great meals, meals that she basically makes with love, for people who have committed crimes bad enough to deserve death. And she feels awful about it. Its hard to come to terms with the fact that she is making meals for murderers…especially when you consider the nature of her mother’s death. But she also enjoys the cooking, she enjoys making these perfect, perfect meals and having a kitchen to cook these, her way. Its very confusing and the way it affects her in two different spectrums, its a big part of what kept me reading.
3.5 out of 5 Stars. It was good, just not her best.
Recommended or Not?
If you’re a die hard Liza Palmer fan, I say go for it. It IS an enjoyable novel and I do like Queenie Wake a lot. However, I would not recommend this as the first Liza Palmer drink you take, because it may not encourage you to take another. Conversations with the Fat Girl and Seeing Me Naked is your better bet. :)
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