Internal Combustion

  • by Joyce Maynard
  • Narrated by Janey Ivey
  • 16 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

On Mother's Day night, 2004, award-winning fourth grade teacher Nancy Seaman left the Tudor home she shared with her husband of 32 years in the gated community of Farmington Hills, near Detroit, Michigan, and drove in a driving rain storm to Home Depot, to purchase a hatchet. Three days later, police discovered the mutilated body of Bob Seaman - a successful auto industry engineer, softball coach and passionate collector of vintage Mustangs - in the back of the family's Ford Explorer. As the shackles were placed on her wrists, Nancy Seaman asserted that her husband had been beating her, and she'd killed him in self-defense. At her trial, two radically different stories emerged.
One of the couple's sons, Greg, testified that his father had been abusing his mother for years. The other, Jeff, testified for the prosecution, charging his mother as a cold blooded killer. Joyce Maynard's chilling work delves beyond the events of the crime itself, to explore the lives of an American family who seemed to have everything. Her exploration of the story led to a year's research in suburban Detroit - but the story she found there will take the reader to the Depression-era farm country of Illinois, the working class neighborhoods of the auto industry in its heyday and even, surprisingly, to a Baptist church in burned-out downtown Detroit.
Along the way we meet a Transylvanian forensic pathologist, a beautiful young prosecutor, an old-school police chief, a television news crew hungry for ratings, the softball scorekeeper mom accused of carrying on an affair with the murdered man, and her two shell shocked teenagers, still reeling from the death of their beloved coach, and a mother who has to tell her daughter why her favorite teacher won't be in school any more. As in Joyce Maynard's previous books - including To Die For, based on a true crime, and her best-selling memoir, At Home in the World - Joyce Maynard's themes here involve family secrets, ...


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

There are no charmers here.

A married school teacher drives to Home Depot on a rainy night and buys the hatchet she will soon use to kill her husband.

Interesting story, right?

No. It's actually really dull. I began listening to the audiobook because I wanted an answer to the question, "How do couples get to hatchet murder?". (I'm still not sure.)

I kept listening to the audiobook to answer the question, "How and why did Joyce Maynard write such a lousy book." That, for me, became a much more interesting mystery.

Here's what I think: Maynard knew fairly early on that she had no angle on the story and no affinity with the people involved, but she had bills to pay and was reluctant (as anyone would be) to eat all the time she'd spent researching with no payday. So she did what writers do - she put words on pages. What to include? Everything.Want to know what game the five year old daughter of the woman who now lives in the house where the murder was committed was playing when Maynard finally got the owners to agree to let her see the place? It's in there! Along with an account of every unreturned phone call and every interview request refused.

And there are lots and lots of those. Virtually no one with anything to say about the murder wants to say it to Joyce Maynard.

Desperate to convince people to open up, Maynard keeps sending the dittohead sportsfans she's trying to win over copies of her books. She wants them to believe (and to believe herself) that she will elevate their story with the power of her prose.

"Get away from my Escapade," say the sportsfans. They suspect she might be an elitist, feminist, liberal*.

And they're totally right.

If Maynard can't see or comprehend that the car enthusiast, sportsfans she's writing about DON'T READ, there is no way in hell she could ever tell this story. I mean, she can forgive the hatchet murder thing, but "Faulkner who?" blinds her to their humanity.

In other words, there is a class and culture disconnect in this book you can't believe. Maynard can make no judgment about anyone, or come down on any side, because she's judged everyone. She just can't admit it. She sounds like an earnest teen coming back from the retirement home saying, " Awwwww. Those old people were so sweet." She might as well be writing about Ewoks for all the depth and variation she's given them.

But that's just me getting something off my chest.

For the book, I thought it was dull-- all detail, no organizing prinicple or insight. Not captivating for either the characters or the deed. Go nowhere long.

For the narration - Appropriately midwestern. Good, workman-like job that doesn't call attention to itself. I've no idea why anyone would have a problem with it.

*Not that there's anything wrong with being an elitist, liberal, feminist- I do it all the time :-)
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- Kelley

First Half Was Good

The first half was interesting, but the second half sounded like "blah-blah-blah" almost all the way though.
Sounded like she had to stretch out the book to make it longer by talking about her frustration, and the trials and tribulations of getting anyone to talk to her.
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- Dennis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-07-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios