The latest winner from the bestselling author of Conversations with the Fat Girl centers around Queenie Wake, a talented but ornery cook who returns after 10 peripatetic years to her small Texas hometown of North Star to reckon with an unpleasant past. Queenie and her older sister Merry Carole still have trouble shedding the town-pariah status given to them by their promiscuous mother, long before she was murdered by her vengeful best friend. The town’s mean girls are now mean women, and catty showdowns are a guilty pleasure to read. Queenie still has feelings for Everett Coburn, who as a boy had been forbidden to see her. As she tries to ignore him, she takes a job at the prison that houses her mother’s killer, making last meals for the condemned and meeting Hudson Bishop, a handsome professor who helps get her mind off of Everett, though she finds his academic interest in capital punishment infuriating. Palmer deftly conveys how parents’ hang-ups can easily be passed on, or, in some cases, nullified by the next generation. For the most part, the author has a light touch with some very heavy subjects, and though the book’s conclusion seems more forced than destined, the story makes for an intriguing, moving read.