Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore is the perfect light summer read that doesn’t feel too fluffy. It’s got more meat than your average chick-lit, but it’s not too bogged down with literary drama to keep it from being enjoyable. I’ve had it on my list for years just because of its sweet Southern title that rolls off the tongue.
Meet Catherine Grace—daughter of a small-town preacher, smart, spunky, and dying to get out of Ringgold, Georgia. Catherine Grace has been plotting her escape for as long as she can remember, making plans over Dilly Bars at the local Dairy Queen with her sister Martha Ann. The two sisters live with their father, the local Baptist preacher; their mother drowned when the girls were young. Catherine Grace’s only connection left with her mother is Gloria Jean, a neighbor and good friend of the girls’ mother who helps Catherine Grace plot her escape as soon as she turns 18.
When her eighteenth birthday rolls around, Catherine Grace’s bags are already packed. She heads to Atlanta to start a new life, because, at the root of it, she just can’t understand how anyone can be happy stuck in Ringgold, Georgia. In Atlanta, Catherine Grace gets settled in a new job and a great place to live. Having worked so hard to escape home, it’s only fitting that she gets dragged back by a family emergency and once there, gets some news that rocks her world. Faced with home and family or the life she made for herself, Catherine Grace must decide where she fits and which place feels more like home.
Ultimately, this book is about family, and everything that comes with it—love and mistakes and forgiveness. It’s about home and figuring out where that is and what it means. Catherine Grace follows the same path that many people do—belittling a town she hates and all the people in it, only to realize there’s nothing actually inferior about it (or them). She was a protagonist to cheer on, understanding her mistakes are the most human of human mistakes as she tries to figure out her place in the world. Gloria Jean is the most refreshing, heart-warming character as one who knows her faults but lives and loves anyway.