Autopsy of an Engine and Other Stories from the Cadillac Plant
A soulful, explosive debut celebrating the grit, passion, and bravado at Detroit’s last Cadillac factory.
Full of magic and soul, these twelve stories bring to life the people whose energy powered Detroit’s Clark Street Cadillac factory until its last smokestack was airlifted out in 1994. Each story is a tribute to the spirit that transformed Detroit into the Motor City and the Cadillac into America’s premier luxury car. They are also a heartbreaking testament to the decline of the auto industry and the loss of jobs that turned Motown inside out. In Hernandez’s stories, you will meet America—full of love, loss, pride, sweat, dreams, music, comfort food, and engine oil—and, in them, you will recognize yourself.
Everyone had their way of saying good-bye to the motor line. With Abbie it was pound cakes. She baked 25 of them for the final day. Almost everyone followed the job to Livonia, a Detroit suburb, except those close to retirement, those with medical restrictions and Abbie Wilson, who didn't take to change easily. But she brought pound cakes for everyone to eat. Take them home, she said. Take them to the new job in the suburbs. It was what she knew how to do. Bake pound cakes. That's what she took out of Hernando, Mississippi. It was what kept her a husband until he died.
In those weeks after the motor line moved, Abbie wandered every day up and down the aisles at break through the block-test area. The lights were bright. Things were still set up as if people were about to enter each job space, grab a gun, some bolts and make an engine. But only tradesmen arrived little by little to remove overhead lines, take up the floorboards, and rip out the engine turnover. Soon the front-and-oil-pan multiple air guns and the spark-plug guns were gone. The block washer at the top of line one, gone. The engine cold start fuel and exhaust lines, gone. The coffee machine, gone. Then all the shipping dock men disappeared. One day Abbie wandered through on break from her new job cleaning third-floor manufacturing offices and there were no lights. She walked until she didn't know where she was walking anymore. Everything was gone, dark, no reference points.
- From "Thanks to Abbie Wilson" Autopsy of an Engine and Other Stories from the Cadillac Plant
"Autopsy of an Engine is the most surprising love story I’ve read all year. The workers in the Cadillac factory who populate this book may not be related, but in the hands of the amazing Lolita Hernandez they become one moving multicultural family. …. I stayed up all night reading and for weeks afterward Abbie, who brought a ghost factory back to life, haunted my dreams. This is a passionate cry from the factory floor, a story you can’t forget from a voice that has not been heard before."
2005 PEN/Beyond Magazine Award Winner
2005 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Finalist