St. Dale

Sharyn McCrumb

Blue America may not remember the significance of February 18, 2001, but our NASCAR-loving red-staters do: It’s the day Dale Earnhardt, the Intimidator, hit the wall 11 seconds before the checked flag at the Daytona 500 and died instantly. If you don’t understand why anyone would wear a T-shirt with the number three and the legend “God needed a driver” emblazoned on it, this novel is a must-read. Not only is St. Dale a crash course—pardon the phrase—in NASCAR culture, it’s also a journey through working-class American religion. McCrumb knows her way around a pilgrimage, and this story is a well-told update of The Canterbury Tales, with Earnhardt in the role of St. Thomas à Becket. It’s also a fine way to learn what it means to say, as the Intimidator himself liked to, that “Rubbin’ is racin’.”