Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

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by Susan Gregg Gilmore

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Sometimes you have to return to the place where you began, to arrive at the place where you belong.

It’s the early 1970s. The town of Ringgold, Georgia, has a population of 1,923, one traffic light, one Dairy Queen, and one Catherine Grace Cline. The daughter of Ringgold’s third-generation Baptist preacher, Catherine Grace is quick-witted, more than a

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Sometimes you have to return to the place where you began, to arrive at the place where you belong.

It’s the early 1970s. The town of Ringgold, Georgia, has a population of 1,923, one traffic light, one Dairy Queen, and one Catherine Grace Cline. The daughter of Ringgold’s third-generation Baptist preacher, Catherine Grace is quick-witted, more than a little stubborn, and dying to escape her small-town life.

Every Saturday afternoon, she sits at the Dairy Queen, eating Dilly Bars and plotting her getaway to the big city of Atlanta. And when, with the help of a family friend, the dream becomes a reality, Catherine Grace immediately packs her bags, leaving her family and the boy she loves to claim the life she’s always imagined. But before things have even begun to get off the ground in Atlanta, tragedy brings her back home. As a series of extraordinary events alters her perspective–and sweeping changes come to Ringgold itself–Catherine Grace begins to wonder if her place in the world may actually be, against all odds, right where she began.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Adult/High School -What is a teen with huge aspirations to do while living in a small town in the early a'70s? Catherine Grace Cline's highlight every week is licking her Dilly Bar at the local Dairy Queen as she longs for the big-city life of Atlanta. As she dreams of leaving Ringgold, GA, population 1932, Catherine deals with her single father, who is a Baptist preacher; younger sister, Martha Ann; doting family friend, Gloria Jean; nosy neighbors; high school gossip; and a boyfriend, Hank. Eventually, and with high hopes, Catherine Grace boards the Greyhound. Through a series of letters from Martha Ann, readers learn about Catherine Grace's Atlanta happenings and missed events back home. When she returns to Ringgold because of a tragedy, startling, personal events change her perspective and her heart for this small town, and she soon reflects that maybe it's the best place to live after all. Gilmore engages teens with true-to-life family dynamics and life in a small town; secondary characters add to the story's authenticity. Look for future literary works from this talented new voice.-Gregory Lum, Jesuit High School, Portland, OR

Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gilmore's debut novel about a young girl coming of age in a small Southern town. Ringgold, Ga., is a town as small and Southern as they come. Growing up in the 1970s, the preacher's daughter, Catherine Grace Cline, dreams of becoming a big-city success as she licks countless Dilly Bars atop the picnic table at the Dairy Queen. The local, Southern-as-pecan-pie dialogue and apparently mandatory use of two first names for every man, woman and child, sound about as flaky as church-going matriarch Ida Belle Fletcher's baptism-day brownies. However, the town comes to life through vivid, albeit unoriginal, characters. The spoiled classmate with a perfectly placed barrette, the town gossip, the beautiful Sunday school teacher and the bookish sister, while entertaining, are too prosaic to be engaging. Though the Church plays a motivating role-Catherine's deeply religious and charismatic father raises her and her sister on biblical parables-the story never delves into a profound discussion of faith. Catherine finds herself in a conflicting relationship with God throughout her youth, but the narrative sticks mainly to pat revelations. As Catherine grows older, Gilmore struggles to maintain a consistent narrative voice, which jarringly jumps from girlish to womanly. Even with the unladylike qualities of a fiery temper and a quick mouth, Catherine manages to win the love of the most popular boy in town, but as many female protagonists have done before her, she originally shuns him to pursue her own dreams. On her 18th birthday, Catherine escapes to Atlanta, only to be called back home by tragedy. In a not-so-surprising twist, the author delivers the same lesson we've heard before: the greatestjourneys are those that lead you home again. Nothing new here. Agent: Barbara Braun/Barbara Braun Associates
From the Publisher
"An unusually engaging novel by a very fine writer who knows exactly what she's doing." —Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls

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Center Point Large Print
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Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen
A Novel

By Susan Gregg Gilmore
Shaye Areheart Books
Copyright © 2008 Susan Gregg Gilmore
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307395016

Chapter One In the Beginning

My daddy always said that if the good Lord can take the time to care for something as small as a baby sparrow nesting in a tree, then surely He could take the time to listen to a little girl in Ringgold, Georgia. So every night before I went to bed I got down on my knees and begged the Lord to find me a way out of this town. And every morning, I woke up in the same old place.

It was a place that I, Catherine Grace Cline, never wanted to call home, even though I was born and raised here. It was a place where everybody knew everything about you, down to the color of underwear your mama bought you at the Dollar General Store. It was a place that just never felt right to me, like a sweater that fits too tight under your arms. It was a place where girls like me traded their dreams for a boy with a couple of acres of land and a wood-framed house with a new electric stove. It was a place I always planned on leaving.

When I was no more than nine years old, a tornado tore right close to my house. I remember yelling at my little sister to run and hide in the basement. “Martha Ann,” I warned her, “if that twister hits this town, nobody’s even going tonotice it’s gone.”

She started crying for fear she was going to be swept up in the clouds and carried away, and nobody, not even our daddy, would be able to find her. Turned out the only thing of any importance swept up in the sky that day was Mr. Naylor’s old hound dog. People said that Buster Black flew some fifteen miles, those long lonesome ears of his flapping like wings, before landing in the middle of some cornfield over in the next county.

Mr. Naylor walked for miles looking for that dad-gum dog till finally my daddy and the sheriff had to go pick him up. And just when that poor man finished planting a wooden cross by Buster’s little house, darn it, if that four-legged fool didn’t come limping back home, wagging his tail and acting like he’d found the Promised Land. Mr. Naylor was crying, praising the Lord, holding Buster Black in his arms. The local newspaper ran a color picture of them both right on the front page, like that dog was some kind of prodigal son.

“You know, Martha Ann,” I told her after reading about Buster’s triumphant return, “a tornado like that just might be our ticket out of here, but unlike that stupid old hound dog, we are not going to limp back home.”

My daddy said I was a little girl with a big imagination. Maybe. Or maybe I was a patient girl with a big dream, or a despairing girl waiting for her divine deliverance. But either way, I was going to hitch a ride out of Ringgold, whether it was on a fiery twister ripping a path through the Georgia sky or on a Greyhound bus rolling its way down Interstate 75.

Truth be told, I never even liked the name Ringgold. I mean, there’s nothing in these green rolling hills that even faintly resembles a ring of gold, a ring of anything for that matter. And believe me, me and Martha Ann looked, somehow figuring that if we could find a ring of trees or ancient rocks, then just maybe our living here would have some kind of meaning. But after years of searching, the best I could figure was that it was just these darn hills that I had stared at every morning from my bedroom window that formed the ring, the ring that had kept me hostage for the first eighteen years of my life.

Nobody much ever bothers to visit this town except the truckers who stop to fill their fuel tanks because they can get some of the cheapest gas in the state here and Mrs. Gloria Jean Graves’s second cousin, who has come up from Birmingham every year for the Thanksgiving holiday since before I was born. She always said it was refreshing to get away from the big city for a few days.

One time the governor came by for about twenty-five minutes to cut a ribbon at the new elementary-school library. Everybody in town came out to see him. Daddy made me wear a dress and tie my hair back in a ribbon, just like I was going to church. Six days a week my daddy didn’t care too much how I looked, but on Sunday mornings there was no negotiating the dress code. My sister and I wore our very best dresses with a fresh pair of cotton panties underneath, out of respect for the Lord, Daddy said.

I really didn’t think Jesus cared what I wore to Cedar Grove Baptist Church, or to see the governor for that matter, considering the fact that in every picture I ever saw of the King of Kings, He was wearing sandals and bundled up in nothing more than a big, baggy robe. But I figured this governor must be the most important person I was ever going to meet if Daddy was making me wear my navy blue Sunday dress with the white lacy collar and my patent-leather Mary Janes.

Martha Ann pitched such a fit about wearing her Sunday clothes that Daddy ended up leaving her at home with a neighbor. My little sister is a couple of years younger than I am, but she has always been a couple of inches taller, my guess from the time she came into this world. She has thick, dark brown hair and deep brown eyes like our mama. I have blue eyes like my daddy and straight brown hair that looks more like the color of a field mouse.

Martha Ann was a pretty baby and a pretty girl. Everything on her face just fits together so perfectly. When we were little, people said we looked just like twins for no better reason than we might have been wearing the same color shirt. You had to wonder if they were truly looking at us. But one thing was for certain, Martha Ann hated putting on her Sunday clothes even more than I did. She’d have much rather been in the library picking out a new book to read than waiting to look at some strange man cut a ribbon.

I told her that if she didn’t stop all that stomping and snorting, she was going to get left behind. And sure enough, she did. She had to spend the entire afternoon with Ida Belle Fletcher shucking eighty-four ears of corn for Wednesday-night supper over at the church.

Ida Belle said she cooked for the Lord, but all I knew was that she smelled like an unsavory combination of leftover bacon grease and Palmolive soap. She kept her big, round tummy covered with a tattered, old apron permanently stained with the meals of another day. The only time I saw her without that apron was when she was sitting in church, and then she kept it folded in her pocketbook.

My patent-leather shoe rubbed a blister on my big toe, but it was worth it. The governor turned out to be, if nothing else, the most handsome-looking man I’d ever seen. He wore a dark navy suit and a crisp white shirt that must have been starched so stiff, it could’ve stood up on its own. A red-and-blue-striped tie was pulled around his neck, and the tip of a white handkerchief was peeking out of his suit pocket. I had never seen a man dressed so fancy. He was in Ringgold for only a few minutes, and then he jumped in the back of a long, black car and sped off down Highway 151. I wanted to go with him so bad that for weeks after that, when I went to bed at night, I got down on my knees and begged the Lord to make me the governor’s daughter.

But He didn’t bother to answer that prayer either, not that I really thought that He would. God put me here for a reason, Daddy kept telling me; I just hadn’t figured it out yet.

Now I know my father was a certified man of God, but at a fairly young age, I decided that when it came to my destiny, he did not know what he was talking about. He certainly did not understand that there was nothing for me here in Ringgold, Georgia. Sometimes I wondered if he had noticed that this town had only one red light, one part-time sheriff, and one post office, which was nothing more than a gray metal trailer perched on a bunch of cinder blocks in the back of the Shop Rite parking lot.

There was one losing high-school football team and one diner, which has been serving pork chops on Thursdays since 1962. There was one fire station, but it burned down five or six years ago when the entire fire department, which amounted to the sum total of Edward and Lankford Bostleman, were spending the night at their aunt’s house over in LaFayette.


Excerpted from Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore Copyright © 2008 by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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From the Publisher
"An unusually engaging novel by a very fine writer who knows exactly what she's doing." —-Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls

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Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 74 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
It's the 1970's, and Catherine Grace Cline is stuck in the one place she knows she doesn't belong - her hometown of Ringgold, Georgia. It's a town that just doesn't fit her. It's too small and too quiet. She spends every Saturday eating Dilly Bars at the Dairy Queen and plotting her escape. Catherine Grace is the daughter of a third-generation Baptist minister. Her father leads his flock through the joys and sorrows of their lives, the same way he has led his family through their own troubled times. Catherine Grace is also the daughter of Lena Mae Pierce, and has been haunted by the death of her mother. How could her mother have drowned in the creek and left Catherine Grace and her sister? Why would God let that happen? The only exciting person Catherine Grace knows is Gloria Jean, who lives next door. Gloria Jean has her hair, nails, and make-up done like no other woman in town. She dresses well and has the sophisticated air of a woman who's been married five times, and isn't ashamed to admit it. Catherine Grace soon finds that she has the chance to change her world. The chance she has dreamed of. She says goodbye to her family, friends, and her boyfriend and moves to Atlanta, where she lives the life she knew she was destined for. But it isn't long before tragedy strikes and Catherine returns home again to find that nothing is as she thought. A series of revelations leads Catherine Grace to wonder if Ringgold was the place where she really belonged all along, or is she throwing away her dreams like so many other people in her life have done? LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN is a very endearing story. Susan Gregg Gilmore writes in a way that immediately brings Catherine Grace to life and gives her a clear, unique voice. The story is surprising and suspenseful; it keeps you turning the pages until you get to the satisfying end.
EricaK More than 1 year ago
Funny! I don't normally laugh out loud, but this book did it! Catherine Grace's humor was phenomenal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book and caused me to have a slight addiction to dilly bars for a few weeks
VirtuousWomanKF More than 1 year ago
This is a great story of forgiveness. I loved the scripture in the story, (from a child and teen's perspective), it made me laugh. "Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen" is about everyday life, everyday people and human nature. Really enjoyed the characters and the twists at the end made it even better. This is a very light read, a little fluffy maybe but a nice story. Sit down with a Dilly Bar and enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was attracted to it by the cover. It was a lot different type of book than I usually read. It was funny, it was sad. It was good.
Jonezone More than 1 year ago
The main character sort of reminded me of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz only without the music. It is about a girl who dreams of leaving her small town in order to pursue her big dreams. Only to find out that her personal happiness is in her own back yard.
Heto More than 1 year ago
This book was a great read with a few twists that keep you reading for more. The first half sets up the story and the second half brings it home. A great summer read for sitting on the deck, on the beach, or just about anywhere.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I knew this was one of my all-time favorite books when I couldn't put it down the first day I got it. But then the owner of a bookstore compared it to To Kill A Mockingbird -- then a radio producer mentioned the same thing to me when she finished it -- Catherine Grace 'the main character' is the voice of Scout in a different time. I laughed as I read the way Susan Gregg Gilmore 'author' described, people, feelings and places. Then I cried when Catherine Grace faced decisions that seem insurmountable to an 18-year-old. Somehow I was right back there with her at that age 'even thought that was nearly 30 years ago!'. By the end I was laughing and crying. This book is an onion. You can skim it as chick-lit, if that's you're wanting out of it. You can feel it to the core of your soul if you want to take a journey back to the time just between being a child and an adult. Or, you can argue the finer points of the book as an allegory. If you do, guess what Dairy Queen is? - Heaven. For this first time author to connect so genuinely with each and every reader 'the best reviews have come from male book reviewers so far', I think we've got a new author to follow.
MrsCFL More than 1 year ago
Charming and easy read. Ending not quite where I wanted it to be - too much foreshadowing mid-to-end so pretty much knew what was coming. Not as moving or touching as author wanted it to be but glad I read it.
Anonymous 12 months ago
This was one of the sweetest books I have read in a long time. Finally a true depiction of growing up in the south with real characters and the real thoughts, hopes and struggles they face, not a superficial view with flat characters. As someone who grew up in a world very similar to Catherine Grace Cline's, I appreciate the honesty and the real dialect and voice. There's nothing more frustrating than over-the-top local color that doesn't seem real. I LOVED THIS BOOK!
Anonymous 12 months ago
It was different. Spiritual content gave food for thought. Humor at times. Suspected that mother had not died from first mention of her death. A good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book started a little slow, but it is wonderful! The stoy of a preacher raising two daughters i a southern town on his own. I loved this book! I hated to see it end. The characters seemed like family. For a great read....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will give this book 5 stars.  Is it great literature? No, but it's such a wonderful feel good story.  I know what other reviewers meant when they said they didn't want to put it down.  I hope the author will write more books.  There are lessons on life for everyone in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I flew through this nice little escape. Would read more Susan Gilmore books. She makes a good case for "blooming where you're planted".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a Ringgold, GA girl and a preacher's dauhter. I laughed out loud. I have not laughed out loud while reading a book in a long time. I grew up during this same era, so for me it was nostagic. The best part of this book is just when you think you know the direction it is going BOOM! I love that in a book.
GolfergirlMK More than 1 year ago
Narrative was in the style of "The Help". You could easily visualize the characters and picture the little town. This is an easy read and a great tale.
lsbball More than 1 year ago
I liked this book but the only thing i wouldnt like is that some of the chapters are soo long that it doesnt keep my attention. Her style of writing is kinda different than wat im used to. This book i would say is for young girls.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book so much! It was light, but it also had serious moments. Anyone who grew up in the south in the 60's and 70's can relate to this book.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the early 1970s in Ringgold, Georgia, teenager Catherine Grace Cline dreams of leaving town soon for Atlanta. The daughter of a widower Baptist preacher is bored with having no life outside of the church even with a caring boyfriend Hank. Catherine Grace¿s highlight each week is finding salvation at the local Dairy Queen one slow lick at a time to savor her Dilly Bar. --- After graduating from high school in 1972, finally with the help of family friend Mrs. Gloria Jean Graves, Catherine Grace takes the Greyhound up I-75 to Atlanta. In the beginning of her stay in the big city, she diligently writes letters to her younger sister Martha Ann who consistently replies both girls miss each other as their mom died when Catherine Grace was six years old. However before she could really taste Atlanta, four succinct worded telegram from Martha Ann brings Catherine Grace home, but with a new perspective on life in a small town. --- A fully developed lead protagonist and a strong secondary cast especially daddy and Martha Ann turn LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN into a profound historical regional tale. The characters provide the audience deep insight into life in both a Georgia small town and Nixon era Atlanta. Anyone who understands what Dairy Queen has meant to the south or just wants to know will appreciate this engaging tale of young woman ready to take on the world, but while doing so learns simple truths about the flexibility of humans to seek dreams, but not fearing to modify or replace them. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
This delightful new book has classic southern storytelling appeal. It makes you laugh out loud and cry big whale tears! It has a profound influence that makes the reader look back at and into themselves, self examination of a sort. Gilmore's Catherine Grace experiences most of life's basic triumphs, failures and tragedies. With a vivid sense of humor she acts upon them, makes mistakes, admits, apologizes, appreciates, finds self respect, forgives and moves forward. Catherine Grace's choices and actions give the reader permission to do the same for themselves. Nobody's perfect! The master twist toward the end is a perfect example of the bizarre and tragic circumstances life can throw at you. Even so, bottom line, the grass may be just as green in other places but never a better shade of green than that in your own backyard. Author, Susan Gilmore takes the pulse of life straight from the heart. P.S. Upon finishing, I went straight to the Dairy Queen and treated myself to a Dilly Bar!
Anonymous 3 months ago
Good book but needed a little more depth. Very light.
Anonymous 10 months ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't want this book to end. Terrific from the first page to the last!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago