On the Seventh Day God Created the Chevrolet
Tom “Pole Cat” Pate cares for little except cars and driving them as fast as he can. His adventures begin as a teen, drag racing his candy-apple red 1955 Bel Air. When money becomes scarce, he is forced to let the car, and his life, run down. Eventually he leaves his hometown and family to become a stock car driver.
The novel begins with an anecdote of Tom driving on the professional circuit, establishing that he does find success. Almost the entire novel, however, concerns his early days struggling to find owners willing to let him drive their race cars. Readers may be disappointed at the lack of success stories in the plot, as Pate wins only one race. The shortage of successes may be part of Wilkinson’s message in this book, as several of her characters emphasize that race drivers are never satisfied, always wishing for something better as soon as they achieve a goal.
The thrust of this novel concerns automobile racing, but Wilkinson throws in other touches. After Tom leaves home, his brother Zack traces him, apparently believing that Tom will escape the drudgery of the family farm and be successful. Ironically, Aurora, a girl whom Tom impregnates, goes to the Pate farm and finds fulfillment there while Tom chases his dreams. Wilkinson also makes a small point of contrasting Tom’s injuries incurred on the track with Zack’s more debilitating injuries from service in the Vietnam War. A message running through the book is that racing is something men are drawn to, even though it is dangerous, does not make much sense, and does not offer much fulfillment. Readers should not look too closely for deep meanings, however, as this is primarily a novel about automobile racing. Wilkinson is a racing expert and has sprinkled true anecdotes and real names throughout her work. Her intent, fulfilled well, clearly is to relate a racing adventure.