Standing Still: A Novel Hardcover – Feb 5 2008
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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.)
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“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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.