Standing Still

( 6 )

Overview

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 ...

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Standing Still: A Novel

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“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

Publishers Weekly

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 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743289733
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • Publication date: 2/10/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,430,526
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kelly Simmons

Kelly Simmons is a former journalist and advertising creative director specializing in marketing to women. She lives with her family outside Philadelphia. Please visit her website at ByKellySimmons.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Racine, April 1977. A Polaroid with white edges. My Easter dress is robin's egg blue; it ripples against the church's red door like a flag. My father said it made my eyes look turquoise. He's not in the frame, but I know he's still alive and in front of me, taking the picture; not because I remember, but because the sky is dark and the March wind is whipping my long hair against my lips, bending the saplings next to the church, and yet I still look so completely, utterly unafraid.

Copyright © 2008 by Kelly Simmons

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Introduction

INTRODUCTION

In Standing Still, an intruder breaks into Claire Cooper's comfortable suburban home and attempts to abduct her daughter. Summoning a level of courage and self-sacrifice she wasn't aware that she possessed, Claire puts herself in the line of fire and utters the heartbreaking words that will undo her: "Take me instead."

For the next week, as her easy life unravels, Claire is tied to a bed in a strange motel room, the intruder her only companion. It is an experience that would be torture for anyone. For Claire, who suffers from acute panic disorder, it is a nightmare that threatens to shred her to pieces, a trauma from which she may never fully recover.

Forced to lie still, alone with her thoughts, Claire must confront her shadowy past and the dark corners of a life previously left unconsidered. Day after day, she goes deeper into herself, reevaluating her marriage, her role as a mother, and the buried source of her crippling anxiety. In seven days, she will step out to the very brink of her soul — perhaps never to return.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. "In all things, I blame the husband." How does Claire's sentiment relate specifically to her relationship with her husband, Sam? How is Sam implicated in Claire's abduction, and to what extent is he ultimately responsible? How does the nature of their relationship complicate Sam's negotiations for Claire's release?

2. How does Claire's acute panic disorder govern the decisions she makes in her life? To what extent do her fear and anxiety seem grounded in the normal stress and strain of raising small children in today's dangerous world? How do her feelings about her father's death seemconnected to this anxiety?

3. "I list what I know: A Cutlass, velour interior, at least fifteen years old - .He looks Latin, yet is over six feet tall." How does Claire's training as a journalist color her own account of her own abduction? How does learning about Claire's abduction through her eyes affect your experience of it as a reader?

4. How does the organization of Standing Still into chapters representing each day of the abduction impact your sense of the looming deadline for Claire's ransom? In what ways do the flashbacks into Claire's past give you a fuller sense of her character? To what extent do you think the effect of the flashbacks is like Claire's life "passing before her eyes," as she contemplates her possible death at the hands of her abductor?

5. How does Sam's work in the pharmaceutical industry come to play a role in Claire's conversations with her abductor? To what extent do you believe that Sam is complicit in the deaths of Mexican workers? Why might Claire be unwilling to ask her husband the hard questions that she asks in her everyday work as a journalist?

6. How would you characterize Claire's abductor, based on what Claire observes about him and what he reveals about himself? To what extent do you think he is driven by his desire for justice? Why do you think he acts to protect Claire on several occasions, and what does that suggest about his feelings about his job?

7. "It is what parenting is, the whole equation. The children watched and the parent invisible." To what extent are Claire's daughters the center of her world? How "invisible" is she as a parent? How would you describe Claire's relationships with each her three daughters, based on the way she interacts with them?

8. "It takes all the strength I have not to call out to Him, to say what I think: Don't leave me." How does Claire's relationship with her abductor evolve over the course of the novel? To what extent does Claire fear her abductor by the end of her confinement? How does her relationship with her abductor compare to her relationship with her husband, Sam?

9. After she is found by the police, why does Claire drive back to Room 7 of the Mid-County Motor Inn? What does her decision to do so reveal about her feelings for her abductor and her husband? How does her gesture betray her training as an investigative journalist, and what does it suggest about her medical condition, post-abduction?

10. What role do secrets play in Standing Still? How does the secret of Claire's past life with David and Jesse haunt this novel? How do the secrets behind Sam's job affect his family? To what extent did these additional levels of secrecy add to your interest in the mystery behind Claire's experience?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Throughout Standing Still, photographs play an important role for Claire in triggering her memories. What photographs trigger intense memories for you? Gather some of your most treasured photographs and bring them to your next book group to share with your friends. What emotions do these photographs capture for you, and why?

2. Are you interested in knowing more about bonds that take place between captors and their abductees? You may want to read more about the Stockholm syndrome, a psychological phenomenon that seems to be at work between Claire and her abductor. Visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome for links to famous cases involving this curious occurrence.

3. In the course of her being abducted, Claire, in a panic, says to her daughter: "My purse is in the bedroom." She fears that these will be her last words to her child. Have you ever thought about what your last words might be to someone you love? You may want to consider writing a letter to someone you care about that expresses your feelings for him or her. You may want to share your letter now, or perhaps just seal it up in an envelope and save it for some future time.

4. Learn more about acute panic disorder at www.panicla.com.

Kelly Simmons is a former journalist and advertising creative director specializing in marketing to women. She lives with her family outside Philadelphia. Please visit her website at ByKellySimmons.com.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

In Standing Still, an intruder breaks into Claire Cooper's comfortable suburban home and attempts to abduct her daughter. Summoning a level of courage and self-sacrifice she wasn't aware that she possessed, Claire puts herself in the line of fire and utters the heartbreaking words that will undo her: "Take me instead."

For the next week, as her easy life unravels, Claire is tied to a bed in a strange motel room, the intruder her only companion. It is an experience that would be torture for anyone. For Claire, who suffers from acute panic disorder, it is a nightmare that threatens to shred her to pieces, a trauma from which she may never fully recover.

Forced to lie still, alone with her thoughts, Claire must confront her shadowy past and the dark corners of a life previously left unconsidered. Day after day, she goes deeper into herself, reevaluating her marriage, her role as a mother, and the buried source of her crippling anxiety. In seven days, she will step out to the very brink of her soul — perhaps never to return.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. "In all things, I blame the husband." How does Claire's sentiment relate specifically to her relationship with her husband, Sam? How is Sam implicated in Claire's abduction, and to what extent is he ultimately responsible? How does the nature of their relationship complicate Sam's negotiations for Claire's release?

2. How does Claire's acute panic disorder govern the decisions she makes in her life? To what extent do her fear and anxiety seem grounded in the normal stress and strain of raising small children in today's dangerous world? How do her feelings about her father's death seem connected to this anxiety?

3. "I list what I know: A Cutlass, velour interior, at least fifteen years oldé.He looks Latin, yet is over six feet tall." How does Claire's training as a journalist color her own account of her own abduction? How does learning about Claire's abduction through her eyes affect your experience of it as a reader?

4. How does the organization of Standing Still into chapters representing each day of the abduction impact your sense of the looming deadline for Claire's ransom? In what ways do the flashbacks into Claire's past give you a fuller sense of her character? To what extent do you think the effect of the flashbacks is like Claire's life "passing before her eyes," as she contemplates her possible death at the hands of her abductor?

5. How does Sam's work in the pharmaceutical industry come to play a role in Claire's conversations with her abductor? To what extent do you believe that Sam is complicit in the deaths of Mexican workers? Why might Claire be unwilling to ask her husband the hard questions that she asks in her everyday work as a journalist?

6. How would you characterize Claire's abductor, based on what Claire observes about him and what he reveals about himself? To what extent do you think he is driven by his desire for justice? Why do you think he acts to protect Claire on several occasions, and what does that suggest about his feelings about his job?

7. "It is what parenting is, the whole equation. The children watched and the parent invisible." To what extent are Claire's daughters the center of her world? How "invisible" is she as a parent? How would you describe Claire's relationships with each her three daughters, based on the way she interacts with them?

8. "It takes all the strength I have not to call out to Him, to say what I think: Don't leave me." How does Claire's relationship with her abductor evolve over the course of the novel? To what extent does Claire fear her abductor by the end of her confinement? How does her relationship with her abductor compare to her relationship with her husband, Sam?

9. After she is found by the police, why does Claire drive back to Room 7 of the Mid-County Motor Inn? What does her decision to do so reveal about her feelings for her abductor and her husband? How does her gesture betray her training as an investigative journalist, and what does it suggest about her medical condition, post-abduction?

10. What role do secrets play in Standing Still? How does the secret of Claire's past life with David and Jesse haunt this novel? How do the secrets behind Sam's job affect his family? To what extent did these additional levels of secrecy add to your interest in the mystery behind Claire's experience?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Throughout Standing Still, photographs play an important role for Claire in triggering her memories. What photographs trigger intense memories for you? Gather some of your most treasured photographs and bring them to your next book group to share with your friends. What emotions do these photographs capture for you, and why?

2. Are you interested in knowing more about bonds that take place between captors and their abductees? You may want to read more about the Stockholm syndrome, a psychological phenomenon that seems to be at work between Claire and her abductor. Visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome for links to famous cases involving this curious occurrence.

3. In the course of her being abducted, Claire, in a panic, says to her daughter: "My purse is in the bedroom." She fears that these will be her last words to her child. Have you ever thought about what your last words might be to someone you love? You may want to consider writing a letter to someone you care about that expresses your feelings for him or her. You may want to share your letter now, or perhaps just seal it up in an envelope and save it for some future time.

4. Learn more about acute panic disorder at www.panicla.com.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

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

    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 he

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2008

    Yes!

    Great read! Fast and exciting! Not the same old tired storyline! I will be on the lookout for another from the author!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2008

    Standing Still - A book you don't want to miss!

    I have waited a long time for Kelly's first book to be published and it certainly was worth the wait! Any mom reading this book will feel like she is Claire Cooper. I couldn't wait to get my husband and son out of the house so I could just sit and read until I finished the book. Kelly does a good job blending bits and pieces of Claire's past with her current situation as the story unfolds. I didn't want to put it down. Hopefully Kelly Simmons is already working on her next novel!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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