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Internal Combustion: The Story of a Marriage and a Murder in the Motor City Audio Download – Unabridged

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
excellent,book well written Nancy Seaman is as a very jealous individual,
she is where she belongs, away from society, she comes across as a
manipulator, who destroyed her sons relationship with each other.she
is a cold blooded killer .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars 37 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should Have Been Better 25 July 2008
By Bill Barbour - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book after hearing the author on Fresh Air. It appealed to me because I used to live in Farmington, Michigan, which is next to the city where Nancy and Bob Seaman lived. I also wondered not only why Nancy Seaman murdered her husband but why she did it so violently.

The book is a page turner. I'm usually a slow reader but I finished it quickly. The short chapters help to maintain momentum. Maynard's style also keeps the tempo going. Some of her interviews and observations do give a flavor of the people and places of the story and the Detroit area.

However, the book has fatal flaws (pardon the pun). The worst of these is Maynard's decision to insinuate herself into the story. The book becomes almost as much of an exercise in therapeutic self-exploration as a true crime story.

Maynard clearly takes sides in this story. She writes of the people she likes, such as Lisa Ortleib (now Gorcyca) and Detective Al Patterson, with near reverence. Those she doesn't like seem like cartoon characters. The same facile approach that makes the book easy to read also gives it a television-like tendency to oversimplify.

Maynard also makes abundant mistakes of fact (saying that Telegraph Road runs through Grosse Pointe, calling Dodge Magnums Plymouths, misspelling Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell's name, etc.). This made me wonder whether her sloppiness extended to pertinent parts of the story, too.

In the end, I was disappointed. This was a story that deserved to be told in all its complexity. Maynard captured some of it. However, she could have told it better if she had kept herself off of the pages and abstained from quick and easy generalization.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Internally Combusting 11 Sept. 2007
By writer wannabe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Let me say this on the onset: I love Joyce Maynard and her writing style. Which is why when I saw this book at the airport 2 weeks ago, I jumped at it and wondered how I had not known it was out. That was 2 weeks ago. Now, 2 weeks later, I am frustrated with the obvious bias and contempt Maynard shows toward Nancy Seaman. I am not sure where this comes from: perhaps because Seaman refused to give Maynard an interview. But the book comes out completely one-sided, despite assertions time and time again by the author that she wants to be fair to all. You get the same feeling when the author speaks about Greg (bad son) vs. Jeff (good son).

I am now at the point where I am now rolling my eyes every time she makes a side comment about Nancy. The section on Nancy calling people "[...]" is actually laughable. By this point, the author is portraying Nancy as the most ungrateful, most despicable, most unreasonable woman in America. Of course, not to mention that she is also an ax murderer.

However, when you see the "support" Nancy gets from her community, the Judge, as well as the angle of the CBS 48 Hours documentary, one really has got to wonder who is really being fair and balanced.

I give the book a 3 because, even with the flaws of the book (such as Maynard now inserting herself into the story -- what is THAT about?), the writing style is still very enjoyable.

But the story itself is really really really sad.

And, I do have a side comment of my own: even though Julie Dumbleton may not have been sleeping with Bob Seaman, I truly believe she was in love with him (the kind of love a spouse has the right to wonder about); and as much as Nancy was fighting for her man, so was Julie giving back ounce for ounce. She is not an innocent naive woman one bit. Instead, I see her as a very calculating woman who was instrumental to the break-down of a marriage. And, quite honestly, I see what Julie and Bob had as an affair. It obviously was not sexual or intimate, but an affair nonetheless.

Like I said, it has been 2 weeks now, and I am internally combusting, but determined to finish the book, because I paid for it. But I am at the point where I am wondering when the book changed from "The Story of a Marriage and a Murder in the Motor City" to "My Life and Times As A Woman, Mother and Writer." The whole focus of the book seems to have changed.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Written from a unique perspective 24 Sept. 2006
By Kcorn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Joyce Maynard has written a combination of true crime novel and personal confession, focusing on Nancy Seaman, a schoolteacher accused of a particularly brutal slaying of her husband, Bob, leaving two brothers adrift and alienated from each other in wake of that crime. That is the basis of this book, the pivotal event that everything else revolves around.

But ths isn't just a recounting of a terrible event but also a way for Maynard to explore marriage in general, including her own marriage, one that eventually led to divorce. She can't help but wonder what separates the pain and rage one feels when a marriage ends from the type of anger that leads to murder? While reading this book, I got the impression that investigating the crime served as a sort of catharsis for Mayhard. Think of it as "true crime marriage therapy".

Maynard also reveals some parallels between her own life and that of the Seaman family- an unhappy marriage, anger, pain, acting irrationally at times....even going so far as to admit that she may have pushed her children to try and make some painful choices. There is a lot of personal revelation and confession here.

I have mixed emotions about the usefulness of this kind of revelation in a true crime novel. Perhaps there is something universal about rage and anger, some connection between "ordinary" rage and that which goes over the edge. On the other hand, I wonder if this book wouldn't have been stronger without the personal viewpoint and comparision.

Even so, there was so much that was moving and engrossing about this book that I read it in one fell swoop, cover to cover. I just wish I knew whether it was meant to be an exploration of the crime itself or an attempt at therapy over the author's long-ended marriage. This left me feeling a bit baffled and ambivalent.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Murder in the Detroit Suburbs - A Long, Frustrating, True-Crime Story 9 Feb. 2011
By stoic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
On one level, Internal Combustion is a standard, true-crime book. Bob and Nancy Seaman were a married couple who appeared to have it all: good jobs, successful kids, and a large house outside of Detroit. But things were not what they seemed. Bob and Nancy's marriage was acrimonious, Bob lost his job as an engineer, and the couple's two sons "took sides" in their parents' arguments.

Shortly after asking Nancy for a divorce, Bob was stabbed to death. Subsequently, police charged Nancy with first-degree murder. However, Nancy claimed that Bob was abusive and that she acted in self-defense. Predictably, Nancy's trial received intense media coverage. In Internal Combustion author Joyce Maynard casts a skeptical eye on Nancy's claims.

There are many strong aspects of the book. Maynard has a talent for making her characters come alive, particularly the Seamans. Also, she does a great job of summarizing the legal proceedings; many true crime books bore the reader during descriptions of trials, but Maynard gives the reader just enough detail. Finally, car fans will enjoy Internal Combustion's descriptions of the role that vintage cars played in the lives of Bob Seaman and his two sons.

On a second level, Internal Combustion differs from most true-crime books. Maynard uses the "new journalism" technique of making herself a major character in the story. She spends dozens of pages discussing her ambivalence about writing the book and she also focuses on her own divorce and how it influenced her perceptions of the Seaman case. A reader's reaction to Internal Combustion will depend, in large part, on how he or she likes "new journalism" approach.

(In my opinion, Maynard's writing is strong in these sections, but she includes too many details. At almost 500 pages, the book is overly long. Less navel gazing would have made the book more satisfying).

There are also several other issues with the book. Maynard had (sporadic) access to only one of the three surviving Maynards, son Jeff. As a result, many details are missing. She unconvincingly claims that she doesn't care that Nancy and Greg Seaman chose not to speak with her. Finally, Maynard irritates the reader by repeating the same descriptions of many of the characters each time she discusses them. (Bob Seaman is short; Nancy Seaman wears nice clothes; one of the prosecutors is beautiful, etc).

I do think that Internal Combustion is worth reading, providing potential readers realize that - at about 500 pages - it involves a large investment of time. (A final note - readers will want to search the web for updates on Nancy - a lot has happened since the book appeared in 2006).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Padded, But Still Well Written 10 Jan. 2008
By Bradley F. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
What do you do when you set out to write a true crime book, but the perp won't talk, even though you've invested a lot of time and money in the faith that she will? Well, this book shows how to get around that major problem. You pad it. Pad it with observations about everything you did while waiting around for the key interview that won't ever happen. You attend the funeral of a Four Tops singer. What's that got to do with Nancy Seaman? Nada. You hang out at the lake house of the local courthouse reporter and pad a few chapters about that. You decide you'll draw parallels with your own failed marriage and divorce. That's good for maybe 25 percent of the required pages to make your book contract. Hmm. Let's see, now? What else can you pad with? Oh, I know. Make some big socioeconomic generalizations about the haves and have nots who populate both sides of the tracks in your setting, in this case, Detroit's 8 Mile Road. Even so, this book is still pretty interesting and Maynard is a world-class writer. So you should read it, even though it's deeply flawed. The case in question is a real beaut.
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