I don’t often browse the new shelves at the library and just pick stuff up, but that’s how I came across this one and I’m so glad I did. Once Queenie left her small town in Texas she was determined to never move back. She traveled around the country being a chef in various big cities, but always getting fired. When the latest firing occurs she packs up and heads back to stay with her sister. In part because she has nowhere else to go, but also because her single mom sister wants her to be there when her son is announced as the starting quarterback. This is a small Texas town where high school football is everything. The problem is Queenie and her sister are considered absolute trash by the whole town and people are always mean to them. Their mother was known for being trash, always drunk, getting arrested, leaving her girls, and ultimately getting killed by her own best friend, after the friend discovered the mom in bed with her husband. The rest of the town has had some unseemly things going on too, but because they are wealthy and a better class, their secrets remain untalked about. Queenie’s return to town shakes everyone up and secrets start to bubble to the surface. There’s a lot going on this book: the fascinating football culture, Queenie and her sister dealing with her dead mother’s effect on their lives, illegitimate children, Queenie’s love affair with one of the rich boys (so it has remained secret), good food and recipes, and prison. Queenie is a chef but never served her own mother’s recipes. This return to town rekindles in her a desire to make the amazing things her mother used to make (the one thing she did well.) From that she takes a temporary job being the last meal chef at a local prison. That’s right. She’s going to make the last meals for prisoners on the day they are executed. This was a totally fascinating angle to this story. Queenie finds it very affecting, too, and it helps her put the rest of her life in perspective. What I go out of this was the shocking knowledge of how many prisoners Texas executes every year. I really had no idea and was horrified.
I really liked this book a lot. It reminds me of another Southern author I like-Billie Letts.