Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, by Susan Gilmore, is the story of Catherine Grace Cline, of Ringgold, Georgia. Growing up with her sister Martha Anne, Catherine can’t wait to move to Atlanta on graduation from high school, to a big city, and away from the small town world. Her animosity toward the town is clear. As she tells her sister when a tornado threatened the town, “Martha Ann . . . if that twister hits this town, nobody’s even going to notice it’s gone.”
The girls’ mother, Lena, drowned when they were small, so they were raised by their father, a third-generation protestant preacher. But Catherine is also mentored by the next door neighbor, her mother’s friend, Gloria Jean Graves, who channels Lena’s independence and helps the girls learn about the mother—how beautiful she was, and how she could sing. But Gloria is also a little too brash and colorful for Catherine to feel proud of her, and the story of the Mother’s Tea at school is particularly poignant.
Upon graduation, Catherine leaves for Atlanta and finds a job in a large retail store. She lives with an elderly lady and her maid, themselves in, what readers may feel is an uncomfortably stereotypical arrangement, until Catherine’s father dies suddenly. Catherine’s return to Ringgold, and a visit to the local Dairy Queen she frequented growing up, reveals much more to Catherine about her family and her destiny than she had discovered in her beloved Atlanta.
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen was published in 2008 by a subsidiary of Random House.