Saturday, March 8, 2008

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore

I saw this one at my local small town bookstore and just couldn't resist the title. Finding salvation at the Dairy Queen sounds quite appealing, and tasty! It is also Gilmore's first published novel. I read it for The Pub challenge since it's a 2008 release. It is also part of my A to Z Challenge. Just to make it more interesting, the author is speaking soon at the bookstore so I'm curious to go and see what she's like.

This is the story of Catherine Grace Cline who is the daughter of the preacher in the small town of Ringgold. Her father is a widower who is raising Catherine Grace (who is always referred to by both names) and her younger sister, Martha Ann. There are plenty of townspeople populating the story, including the five times divorced next door neighbor, Gloria Jean, and Miss Raines, the young Sunday school teacher who is smitten with Reverend Cline. Catherine Grace spends each Saturday at the local Dairy Queen making plans (and eating a Dilly bar!) to leave her small hometown as soon as she turns 18.

STRENGTHS OF LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN: Gilmore seems to understand the people and rhythms of a small southern town. These characters are human with their flaws and artifices. Catherine Grace is a likable character, even as she plots to leave everything, and everyone, she knows behind. Her father, the Reverend, is also a well-drawn character who is shown with his flaws, even if he doesn't recognize them himself. I loved Gloria Jean. She was larger than life and quite funny. I spent a great deal of time trying to picture who would play her in the movie because I'm sure this one will be a movie someday. There are too many good roles for women for this one to get away.

SPOILER ALERT: One of my favorite parts was the ending so skip this paragraph if you don't want to know. I loved how Catherine Grace found everything she was looking for right where she was. I also liked the fact that Gilmore gave her options at the end, and the strength to do the right thing for Miss Raines. It was refreshing that her salvation was not a heavy handed moment of spiritual awakening, but a quiet moment, at the Dairy Queen!, where she realized the power of the people and the town of Ringgold.

WEAKNESSES OF LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN: The author made a point of stressing that the story was set in the 1970s yet some of the plot twists made the story seem much older than that. When Catherine Grace leaves for Atlanta, her father and sister act like it's a world away. I realize that Gilmore was making a point about how different the two places were, but I really think everyone would have used the telephone, especially in an emergency.

Overall, this book is a quick read and thoroughly enjoyable. I'd give it four stars and highly recommend it. I'll do an updated post after I attend the author event. If you've read this one, I'd love to hear what you think. My bookstore friend thinks Gilmore writes like Fannie Flagg, who I've never read. If you have read her and have suggestions, let me know.


gautami tripathy said...

I have not read her. From your review, I think I will go for it.

How Cool Is This? said...

I loved Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen! I've talked to a number of book store owners and managers who said they couldn't put the book down until they finished it -- which was the case with me. One bookseller told me she thought Susan Gregg Gilmore's voice resembled Harper Lee -- I thought she meant Lee Smith, Gilmore's mentor, but no...she went on to make comparisons between Dairy Queen and To Kill a Mockingbird. Wow!

Also, Susan Gregg Gilmore is totally charming in person and very engaging. She'll be at Sierra Madre Books on March 19 in the evening.I know the lady who is organizing it and it will be a fun night!

BookGal said...

Guatami - Read it! It is wonderful.

How Cool - That's quite a comparison. I hope she has more than one book in her.

Much Ado said...

This sounds interesting and also Fannie Flagg is someone I have also been meaning to read.

alisonwonderland said...

i put this one on my to-read list a week or so ago when i first heard of it. nice review!

the only Fanny Flagg i've read is Welcome to the World, Baby Girl. i loved it! (actually i've read it twice.)

Trish said...

Actually as I was reading the beginning of your post I thought--this sounds like a Fannie Flagg book. I've only read two: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and Daisy May and the Miracle Man, but I enjoyed both (loved Daisy May). I really enjoy Southern settings and their small town residents (we've got lots of both in Texas).

BookGal said...

much ado - Me too. I think I'll try Alison's recommendation.

alison - I'm putting that on my TBR list (or should I say mountain:)

trish - You might like this one. It's the southern town that appealed to me too.

patricia harman said...

Dear Book Gal, If I could figure out a way to contact you outside the comments section I would. I loved Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen too. Since we both seem to have the same sensibilities, I wonder if you would like to review my book The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir (Beacon Press) You can see more about it at my website www.patriciaharmancom. The book is not so much about birth but about the courage of the ordinary woman as she gives birth to herself. Let me know if you'd like a copy. Best to you and compliments to your great blog. Patricia Harman

patricia harman said...

Oh, Book Gal. I don't know if you can see my email address. You can contact me at Peace, Patricia Harman