Book Review: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore

April 17, 2012 book review 4

 Catherine Grace Cline knows one thing for certain, she can’t wait to get out of Ringold Georgia.  As the daughters of the local  Baptist preacher everyone in town knows her and her younger sister, Martha Ann.  The sisters regularly sit on the picnic table outside the Dairy Queen eating their Dilly Bars and talking about the lives they hope to have. 
This wonderful story with a strong Southern voice is the first novel written by the lovely Susan Gregg Gilmore.  I read Susan’s second book, The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove, last year and found it to be so beautiful and touching.  I also met Susan at the 2011 UCF Book Festival, so nice.  It’s taken me a while to get to this book I’ve had on my shelf, way too many good books out there!! 

Catherine Grace is a burgeoning pre-teen when we first meet her.  As she grows up she is a constant observer of those in her community, but does she really only see what she wants?  Catherine’s daddy is a single father, her mother died in a freak accident when she was very young.  No one talks about her momma much, but thank goodness for their neighbor Gloria Jean Graves.  She was there for most of their feminine questions, Gloria helped out when their daddy had to work late, and she had been friends with Catherine’s momma.  The town of Ringold boasts many more characters and having been in my fair share of small southern towns, they are colorful, quirky and make small towns so much fun.  Of course there are the snotty girls, who have mommas or grandmas that assure they have everything.  There is the Sunday School teacher who pictures herself wiggling her way into the preacher’s heart.  When she starts coming to Sunday Supper each week Catherine and Martha are less than happy. 

Catherine grows up and does the typical teen things, including falling madly in love with the cute guy in her HS and church youth group.  Hank isn’t really the guy for her, and she breaks his heart.Catherine Grace never loses her dream of leaving Ringold, and after her high school graduation she packs up the suitcase her daddy gave her and she boards a Greyhound Bus for Atlanta.  A distant cousin is willing to let her stay with her for a while and from there the sky is the limit, or so she believes.  Tragedy back in Ringold brings Catherine Grace back home……..where she learns family secrets run deep, and she learns so much more about the man who makes the dip cones and the Dilly Bars at the Dairy Queen.  Her eyes are open now, and she is very surprised at what she sees.

Southern voice that rings true, this is what kept crossing my mind as I was reading.  My family is from Texas, my parents both from small towns of less than 1000 people, small towns where everyone knows everyone and everyone has two names.  I was Anita Gail for most of my young life when visiting my relatives.  Susan knows the south, and the thoughts and feelings of a young girl growing up and dreaming of a place where the grass is always greener.  I couldn’t help but adore Catherine Grace, she was spunky, didn’t conform to what everyone wanted her to be and she was resourceful. 

This was a quick and enjoyable read, but filled with wisdom and insights into keeping family secrets and how they can keep hurting future generations.  I’ve given this book 5 out of 5 stars, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Southern Literature. I chose this book for my book club, Babes, Books and Bordeaux.  We had a small meeting last week and I was happy others enjoyed it too.  Please visit Susan’s website, linked above and in 2013 she’ll have a new book coming out, The Funeral Dress.  I cannot wait. 

4 Responses to “Book Review: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore”

  1. Sandy Nawrot

    I love Susan and I love her literary voice. I find it amazing that this is her debut novel. Her pacing, her characterization, the combination of light-heartedness and serious subject matters is perfect. It is too bad more people in our book club didn’t read it!

  2. Zibilee

    I still have to finish this one, and it sounds like I am going to really enjoy the rest of the story! You did a great job with the review and you expressed the flavor so Susan’s writing with great depth and candor. Wonderful review today!

  3. Susan Gregg Gilmore

    What a lovely, thoughtful review – thank you so much. My 83-year-old mother is going to love this one!

    You know Lee Smith once compared this book to an onion. At first glance you see just the onion or in this case a simple story. But then you peel back the layers and find a lot more than you expected.

    You really described that very thing in your review, and I do so appreciate that!!

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