Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen



  • Looking for salvation at the Dairy Queen : a novel / Susan Gregg Gilmore.


Publication Info

  • New York : Shaye Areheart Books, c2008.


  • 9780307395016; $23.00


  • 296 p.


  • Hardcover
  • paperback
  • ebook
  • e-audio
  • CD
  • Large print

Rating Scale

3Q, 4P

Reader’s Annotation

Catherine Grace Cline sits with her sister at the Dairy Queen, licking Dilly Bars, plotting to get out of her tiny little home town of Ringgold, Georgia, and move to the big city of Atlanta, but when she does, tragedy strikes and long-held secrets threaten to spill out and tear apart the people she loves.


Catherine Grace Cline, daughter of Ringgold, Georgia’s third generation Baptist preacher, has a dream. Every Saturday she sits on a picnic table at Dairy Queen eating a Dilly bar and plotting her escape to the big city of Atlanta. On her eighteenth birthday, with the help of a friend, her dream comes true. She gets a job at Davidson’s Department Store, just like she hoped. She finds a home with a landlady who becomes a dear friend. Just as she begins to settle in, though, tragedy strikes. A return home brings painful surprises, but provides an eye-opening experience for Catherine Grace.


Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen was Susan Gregg Gilmore’s debut novel. It is a sweet coming of age novel with a delightful Southern lilt. The characterizations of small town, southern life are recognizable to anyone who has lived there. The novel has a gentle humor, poking at human foibles, but never mocking. Gilmore is respectful of her characters, and manages to create empathy even for the least sympathetic among them.

While religious themes run through the book, it really could not be categorized as Christian fiction (as evidenced by some mild language and sexual themes). The book does, however, explore the consequences of bad decisions (or sin) and the virtue of forgiveness. It also details the faith journey of Catherine Grace in a very realistic manner.

Gilmore’s writing has been compared to the great southern writer, Fannie Flagg. If you enjoy that down-home southern style, then you will enjoy Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen.


This is the debut novel of a fresh new southern voice.


See the author’s website here.



The Novel Life


Southern chick lit; humor; coming-of-age

Appeal Factors

Fans of Fannie Flagg may like this book. Women who grew up in the south or in a small town may enjoy familiar situations, likewise those who did not grow up in the south but are fascinated by it.


Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg. While the story lines are very different, both offer a warm, often humorous look at life in a small southern town, complete with authentic southern lingo.

The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, by Ann Packer. Both books are coming of age stories featuring young women in small towns. The Dive From Clausen’s Pier is set in the midwest.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald. This book is written in an Epistolary style and focuses on small-town life. It is also humorous.

Booktalking Ideas

A booktalk could highlight when the main character actually leaves her home town and moves to Atlanta, fulfilling her lifelong dream.

If done in an engaging way, a booktalk could also describe the town of Ringgold and some of its special people and cultural traits, ending with how much Catherine Grace wants to leave.

Discussion Questions

Catherine Grace desperately wanted to get out of her hometown. Others, like her father, want nothing more than the comfort of familiarity. To which feeling do you most relate?

What are the pros and cons of living in a small town like Ringgold?

On page 64, Catherine Grace muses, “He loaded the boxes just as she had asked, and I had a feeling I had already learned an awful lot about doing business that day.” What did you think of Gloria Jean’s way of doing business? Do you think Mr. Tucker was aware of her manipulations?

Catherine Grace says on page 214, “Dying has a funny way of making you see people, the living and the dead, a little differently.” Have you ever had this experience?

Why I chose this book

I was not born a southerner, but have lived in the south now for 23 years. I love stories with an authentic, small-town southern voice, highlighting the cultural quirks of the region.

Memory Cues

Ringgold, Georgia; daughter of a Baptist Preacher; Dairy Queen; tomatoes


One thought on “Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

  1. Thank you so much for linking to my review! I haven’t read The Dive from Clausen’s Pier but I have read the other two you recommend and think you are spot on! Of all Susan Gregg Gillmore’s books this one was my favorite. Glad you enjoyed it as well!


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