22 March 2012

What the... why did I wait this long to read Susan Gregg Gilmore after winning Bermuda Onion's giveaway in 2010? The author will be at the Virginia Festival of the Book this weekend so it finally gave me the deadline I needed to put it to the top of the list. Again, why did I wait?

This heartwarming tale of Catherine Grace in the 1970s in Ringgold, Georgia was a sweetheart read and I enjoyed the evolution of one young girl wanting more out of life. Dreaming about bigger and better beyond her town while spending every Saturday sitting at the Dairy Queen picnic table eating her favorite Dilly Bars, Catherine Grace never knew that by the time she was eighteen, she would learn leaving home doesn't always work the way you want it to, and it certainly isn't always the answer to fulfilling your dreams.

At the young ages of six and four, Catherine Grace and younger sister Martha Ann lost their mother in a fluke accident when she was picking blueberries by the river. Without their mother, they are raised under the compassionate eye of their father, Ringgold's favorite preacher (third in the family line of watching over the town's flock) and Gloria Jean, the next-door neighbor who becomes their surrogate mother. It's Gloria Jean who actually becomes my favorite character, the firecracker who doesn't go to church, has been married five times, and always knows just the right shade of nail polish to wear for every event. For Catherine Grace and Martha Ann, she is their guide for all things young women need to learn.

At once sweet, insightful, and forgiving, Susan Gregg Gilmore's debut novel genuinely tugged at my heartstrings, and just like *that* (snaps fingers), I was tearing up. I was touched by the heartfelt writing and Gilmore's knack to believably grow Catherine Grace's perspective from a young girl to her teen years and finally, the blessed adulthood she's been waiting for. With eclectic and quirky characters throughout town representing every spectrum of any town in America, Ringgold humorously becomes representative not just of towns in the South, but most importantly of people everywhere. Ranging from gossipy and spiteful to loving and thoughtful, Ringgold has it all. The ending certainly tied everything in a perfect bow, but each endearing moment Catherine Grace experienced made me absolutely fine with it.

Susan Gregg Gilmore's debut was a sweet delight to read and I'm looking forward to the next book from her on my shelf. I can't wait to her speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book!

Passages of Note (an example of an unexpected chuckle while reading):
"Lord, thank you for bringing your children together tonight for fellowship. We praise you for all you've given us, and please guide us as we prepare for our Christmas pageant. Touch Jimmy Blanchard with your healing power 'cause his mama says he has mono, and uh, you better go ahead and touch Lucy Mills while you're at it. And, one more thing, we know you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, but if you could lead the Ringgold Tigers to victory Friday night, well, we'd love to win one before the end of the season. In your name we pray, Amen." (p.104)
Others said (I know there are more out there! Let me know so I can add your link.):
Bermuda Onion

FTC Disclosure: I received this copy autographed by the author from blogger Bermuda Onion in her giveaway in 2010.

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Release Date: 6/9/2009
Pages: 304

About the Author
Susan Gregg Gilmore is the author of Looking for Salvation at the Diary Queen and The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, she attended the University of Virginia and graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. She has chaired book fairs, taught Vacation Bible School, while also writing for the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Chattanooga News-Free Press. She lives in Nashville with her husband and has three daughters.

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  1. Oh this sounds wonderful and moving. Great review darling.

  2. Sounds like a great read. I was under the impression this was a memoir, turns out I was wrong!

  3. Yay! I'm so glad you loved the book. Susan is a sweetheart - be sure to tell her I said hi!

  4. Susan is an absolutely ADORABLE woman who is impossible not to love. I am just about ready to pick this one up (our book club is reading it) and I gave Bezelia a five star rating. It was complex and heartwarming, so you need to get your hands on that one too!

  5. This sounds absolutely lovely. I love books set in the South - although I've never even been there.
    The characters sound appealing.

  6. As Sandy says, this is our book club read for the month, and I can't wait to get started with it. I love Susan, and think she's such a great person, and I can't wait for you to get the chance to see her speak! I am so glad that you enjoyed this one!

  7. oh yes... this sounds like just the thing i'm ready to read! visiting the bookstore today :)

  8. You had me at "nail polish!" I think this sounds like a perfect summer read! Thanks, Natalie!

  9. I laughed when I read your first line of this post because I'm reading The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore, a book I won last year fromZibilee and I have wondered more than once while reading, how come I didn't read this book sooner?!

    I have also wanted to know what bloggers thought of this book so I was excited when I saw the title of your post! This book sounds wonderful and so sweet. I love Catherine Grace's name and Gloria Jean sounds like a hoot! I'm going to make sure I get a copy of this book very soon!

    I just loved your review, Natalie, thank you :o)