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.