Tuesday, August 9, 2011
It's not really about ice cream
Nothing makes my little heart go pitter patter like a good book. Finding a new (to me) author who gives me a compelling story with realistic characters in a setting I can vividly imagine—well, that’s what my friend Molly refers to as “chocolate orgasms under the Christmas tree.” I happen to have found just such an author in Susan Gregg Gilmore.
Gilmore’s first book, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, published by Shaye Areheart Books/Crown in 2008, is the story of Catherine Grace Cline, a teenager in rural Georgia in the 1970’s, who wants nothing so much as to escape her everybody-knows-everybody, small town life. The first half of the book is a series of snapshot events that explain Catherine Grace’s desire to leave her hometown, a rescue that she prays to God for every night. After the drowning death of her mother, Catherine Grace is raised by her Baptist preacher father, a man idolized by his congregation, which happens to be the entire town. Being both motherless and the preacher’s daughter places her in the limelight, when what she really wants is to fade into the shadows. We see Catherine Grace torn between trusting in and being angry with God, nurturing maternal bonds between herself and her sister, falling in unlikely love with the captain of the football team, and ultimately leaving them all behind to follow the dream that has sustained her throughout her life.
Once she does leave for Atlanta, the book becomes more narrative in structure, following the chain of events that bring Katherine Grace back to Ringgold and call into question everything she thought she knew about her family, her town, and herself.
Being hugely pregnant as I am, I’m finding reading something of a challenge these days. I can’t get comfortable, I fall asleep anytime I lie down anywhere - except of course in bed, and Reading for pleasure makes me feel guilt that I’m not slogging through yet another baby or parenting book. Honestly, it was the thought of ice cream more than anything that interested me in Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen. Turns out though, that the Dairy Queen is just where Katherine Grace does her ruminating on small town life and makes her plans for her escape from it. There are a fair amount of dilly bars in the book, but there’s hardly more than a scene or two that actually takes place at the Dairy Queen.
I get the majority of my reading material from the Braille and Audio Reading Download, BARD, website of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Gilmore’s first novel did such a fine job of captivating me in the face of unlikely odds that I’ll be purchasing the audio version of her next offering, The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove.
I must confess here that I love books set in the South and written by Southern authors. Since I’m not one to pass up offering book recommendations, here are a few of my favorite Southern authors:
Pat Conroy: Honestly, the man needs no introduction. A Pat Conroy novel is what happens when heartbreakingly beautiful language falls into the hands of a master storyteller.
Jill Conner Browne: She writes the Sweet Potato Queen books, which are simply some of the funniest things I have ever read. Start at the beginning with The Sweet Potato Queen’s Book of Love if you want, but the Sweet Potato Queen’s Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit and the Marriage Planner Divorce Guide are my favorites. Oh, and all the books have recipes – yummy, Southern recipes – the kind you eat with a spoon straight from the pan and would never admit to even knowing about, let alone actually cooking yourownself.
Patti Callahan Henry: Her characters could be people you know from your own life, or even you. Her characters are realistically flawed without being tortured. My first introduction to Patti Callahan Henry was Driftwood Summer, and I followed that up with Losing the Moon. Both stories grabbed me and pulled me in from the very beginning.
Leave it to me to issue a summer reading list at the end of summer. So any other good book recommendations out there?