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On Mother's Day night, 2004, award-winning fourth grade teacher Nancy Seaman left the Tudor home she shared with her husband of thirty two 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, the deep fissures that lie below the surface of the glittering exteriors, and the deep, potentially fatal, fissures in the American Dream.
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Praise for Internal Combustion
"The sensitivity and insight, both psychological and deeply personal, that Maynard brings to her exploration of this brutal, seemingly unfathomable murder elevate Internal Combustion to a place far above the true crime shelf. Her reporting floors me. Her pacing is seamless, swift, unerring. This book runs like a '69 Shelby."
—Mary Roach, author of the best-selling Stiff and Spook
"As relentlessly hypnotic as In Cold Blood. A book that barrels us down a dark stretch of the American Dream, where families fracture, secrets take root, and 'till death do us part' takes on a whole new meaning."
—Jason Roberts, author, A Sense of the World
"One of the great evil-Mommie stories of all time. Part murder mystery, part dysfunctional family story, part self-help book, the subtitle could be: how a hatchet murder taught me to love my children and to accept the terms of my divorce. Nowhere have I seen a better expression of Samuel Beckett's observation that love is a kind of lethal glue."
—Errol Morris, filmmaker, The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line
Joyce Maynard is the author of several celebrated books, including the novels Baby Love and To Die For, which was made into a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, and the memoir At Home in the World. She has been a reporter for the New York Times, a syndicated columnist and commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, and a contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine, More, Redbook, Vanity Fair, and many other publications.
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