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Standing Still: A Novel [Hardcover]

Kelly Simmons
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Feb. 5 2008
Journalist and suburban mom Claire Cooper suffers from panic disorder. Most of her anxieties seem irrational, nothing that can't be fixed with the help of some Xanax. But late one stormy summer night, when her husband, Sam, is away on one of his frequent business trips, Claire's fears come to life. She discovers an intruder has broken into her young daughter's bedroom. She watches helplessly as he picks up her sleeping child from her bed. Desperate to protect her family, Claire puts herself in the line of fire and utters the plea that will undo her: "Take me instead."

As she drives away in the kidnapper's car, Claire fears for her children, but not for herself. And she can't help noticing the reversal in her marriage -- for the first time in ten years, Sam will not know where she is.

For the next week, Claire is tied to a bed in a strange motel room, the intruder her only com-panion. She is forced to lie still and contemplate the reasons for this assault on her family. Is this just a random crime, or something more sinister? Has the shadowy past that she tried so hard to leave behind finally caught up with her? Day after day, she goes deeper into herself, reevaluating her marriage and her role as a mother, and unburying the source of her crippling anxiety. In seven days she will step out to the very brink of her soul -- perhaps never to return.

A riveting debut novel that will appeal to fans of Sue Miller and Janet Fitch, Standing Still is a powerful exploration of the darker side of mother-hood and marriage.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. What mother wouldn't sacrifice herself for her child? In Simmons's electrifying debut, the answer is delivered through the harrowing ordeal of a mother held for ransom by an anonymous kidnapper. A former globetrotting journalist now working for a Midwest TV station, Claire has a comfortable life with her husband, Sam, a successful co-owner of a PR/marketing firm, and their three young daughters, but she's unhappy with Sam and struggles with a secret past. On one of the frequent nights Sam isn't home, an intruder crashes through the skylight of the couple's newly renovated house. The man planned to kidnap their oldest girl, but Claire persuades him to take her instead. An intense bond develops between Claire and her abductor, a widower mourning the loss of his wife, during the eerie seven-day odyssey that follows. As Claire waits for the ransom to be paid, she faces some hard truths about the choices everyone makes that sometimes require lies to endure. The perfect read for a stormy night, Simmons's suspenseful tale contains nary a wasted word. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“An electrifying debut. The perfect read for a stormy night, Simmons's suspenseful tale contains nary a wasted word.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Simmons's debut kicks off with an intriguing premise. The prose is concise, resonant, vibrant—more thoughtfully crafted than is typical in genre thrillers—and worth savoring.”—Romantic Times (four stars)

Midnight Run with a female Charles Grodin…invigorating prose beefs up a conventional crime story.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Standing Still has a rare quality for a thriller. It's subtle, no less scary than it should be, but almost gentle where it needs to be.” —New York Daily News --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely riveting from page one July 13 2008
By Debbie the book junkie in Ontario TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This book had me from page one...plain and simply grabbed me by the throat in the first chapter and off we went on an amazing ride.

The thought put into the details of panic disorder makes it a very believable read...both the protagonist and the antagonist are engaging characters that cause the reader to think outside the box with regards to the abductor/abductee relationship.

I've become a very jaded reader in the past few years and this book was just the tonic I needed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "If I went with my gut, I'd never leave the house." Feb. 17 2008
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Standing Still," by Kelly Simmons, is the story of a woman who is depressed and anxious in spite of the fact she lives in a lovely home and has three adorable daughters. Forty-year old Claire Cooper worshipped her father when she was a little girl; he was "a hero who made every other man look small, ruinous." Claire resents her husband, Sam, who is often away on business, and she suffers from recurring panic attacks that persist in spite of medication and therapy. Her worst fears come true when, one stormy night, an intruder breaks into her home and threatens to kidnap her six-year-old daughter. She begs him to take her instead, and he complies. What follows is a most unusual abduction. Claire's captor, who is never named, turns out to be a compassionate person who has a good reason for everything he does.

As is so often the case in today's fiction, the chapters that take place in the present alternate with italicized flashbacks in which we learn something of Claire's past. She was a promiscuous woman who went from one lover to another based on superficial attraction ("my friends called me the queen of walking away"); she is hiding a horrifying secret that she prays will never come to light; she abhors her husband's shallowness, penny-pinching, and all too frequent absences. As Claire gets to know her kidnapper, she finds out that he is a man on a mission, and that he bears her no personal ill will. They gradually bond, in a way that often happens in situations of this kind, and their fates become inextricably intertwined.

Kelly Simmons has a clear, fast-paced, and conversational writing style; she injects a touch of occasional humor to offset the novel's dour theme. "Standing Still" is a psychological study of a dysfunctional marriage, and of a woman who is uncomfortable in her own skin. Because of her emotional problems, she is incapable of relaxing and enjoying her work as a journalist or her role as a wife and mother. During her week-long ordeal, Claire is forced to reexamine the past and decide what she has that is worth fighting for. The plot is a bit contrived and simplistic, and does not bear close scrutiny. The book's value lies in its sensitive analysis of Claire's complex personality and its engrossing account of her gradual transformation from frightened victim to a more realistic grown-up, who is able to live with life's uncertainties and imperfections.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for Thought Book Club - Monterey, California Feb. 21 2008
By Mary D. Dowson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Our book group chose "Standing Still" for our February selection. We want more Kelly Simmons! Simmons had us from the first sentence and her skillful use of pace kept us engaged all the way through to the uncompromising ending. The plot was unpredictible and intricately woven. We couldn't put it down and savored each well crafted - but not over written - chapter. Our consensus is that it will make a great movie that we'd each love to see.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read Standing Still before the days grow long. It's too good to wait. Feb. 5 2008
By Caroline Debrot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Standing Still makes the manageable world you know melt away as the world of Claire's worst nightmares takes hold. In the opening chapter, she is a patchwork of awkward contrasts, bitten and defensive but maternal, sensual and constrained, clever and irrational. At first guardedly intrigued by how brittle and complex Claire is, you will soon become sympathetic to her. You will identify with her dark desire and the terrible intimacy she shares with her kidnapper, as much as you will feel her terror in your guts.

Standing Still leaves you wondering. Claire is by far the best-developed character and yet her husband and her kidnapper are fascinating shadows of real people whose souls you never see. Despite Sam's memorable hair, I think I never saw his face, never looked into his eyes. And her kidnapper is even more enigmatic. One wonders, does her perpetual panic force Claire to know herself so well that she can't really know anyone else?

You'll read this and want more from this author.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not believable, annoying main character May 4 2011
By chicagoliz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this book for my book club, and would not have otherwise read it. I don't generally care for light fiction, and books like this are the reason why. I don't understand all of the positive reviews. I could not stand the whiny, neurotic, weak main character. Without giving too much away, the way she is kidnapped, the way she is treated, the reason for her kidnapping, and what turns out to have been the event from her past that makes her on edge are all completely unrealistic and not believable. I was hoping for an interesting analysis of married life, relationships or career vs. family status, since the book claims that "she goes deeper into herself, reevaluating her marriage and her role as a mother, and unburying the source of her crippling anxiety." She does none of this. She whines and complains, and when the alleged "source of her anxiety" is revealed, it is not dealt with or probed at all. It feels very unfinished and unsatisfying on that issue.

One of the reviews on the back of the book is from something called Romantic Times. I guess that should have given me all I needed to know. If you usually read romance novels, you'll probably like this. If you prefer weightier books, look elsewhere.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You might not understand Claire, but you'll be riveted by how she views her abduction Oct. 11 2011
By Tribute Books Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sometimes a character just doesn't make sense. Why would a woman allow herself to be kidnapped from her own home and then make no concerted effort to escape? Why would she so willingly give up? In Kelly Simmons' Standing Still, it becomes apparent that judging someone before knowing all of the facts is never a good idea. There's more to our victim, Claire, than meets the eye.

As a suspense-filled, psychological thriller, Simmons' writing is electrifying. The night of the abduction is perfectly set. A raging thunderstorm. An intruder's footsteps on the tin roof. A stranger's eyes peering from her daughter's bedroom. It's chill-inducing drama at its best.

A clue to Claire's inner turmoil is revealed when she gives herself up in place of her daughter. The kidnapper readily makes the exchange leaving the easy prey of her three young girls behind preferring instead to drag a grown woman barefoot in a flimsy nightgown into the teeming night. After a 90 minute car ride, they end up in room seven of the Mid-County Motor Inn.

This lock down isn't your typical sequestration. When Claire's one try at freedom is derailed, she never tries to leave the room again - ever. In fact, she grows attached to her jailer. His gentle treatment and kind demeanor lead her to conjure up fantasies about the young Latino man holding her for ransom. He's a paramedic. He's a father. This is his first foray into kidnapping. She starts developing an emotional bond with her unnamed assailant over B.L.T.'s and crossword puzzles.

The question arises - was her life so bad before? It is gradually revealed through flashbacks - that emerge from the memories connected to old snapshots - how she never recovered from her father's death. In the ensuing years, she's suffered from a type of panic disorder and has visited psychiatrists across the country seeking relief from her imagined fears. It is only when her worst nightmare comes to fruition that she begins to reexamine her relationship with her ever-traveling husband and discover just what exactly all of his urgent business trips were really about.

The crux of the novel - the reason why she was kidnapped - doesn't quite live up to the potential build-up, especially in the last few pages when the possibility of who was really involved doesn't match up with what you've been led to believe. Yes, the innuendo is there. Maybe that person was involved, there's just no physical evidence providing the connection, but a key revelation from Claire's past might have made for a more satisfying whodunit. In the end, the association behind why Claire was chosen is vague at best, possibly justifying Simmons' view of the randomness of life.

The lovesick nature of Claire is heartbreaking throughout. Her husband has her kiss the bartender on their honeymoon in order to cover the tab. While her kidnapper teaches her the inherent joy of belly-flopping onto a bed. Her husband left her alone with her panic attacks for nights on end. Yet for the first time, she feels safe under the ever-watchful gaze of her kidnapper. Her husband initially wanted her because he felt she was the ideal, unobtainable woman. However, when responding to the ransom demand, he has his secretary make the call for him. Her husband has essentially carved her out of his life, while her kidnapper has made her the sole focus of his. The dichotomy between the two is stunning.

Overall, you might not understand Claire, but you'll be riveted by how she views her abduction.
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