Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: Standing Still

Summary: 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 companion. 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. -- Washington Square Press

I first heard about STANDING STILL by Kelly Simmons when I read a Philadelphia Inquirer article about authors who visit book clubs. I immediately thought it was a book that I would enjoy and added it to my humongous TBR list! You can imagine my joy when Ms. Simmons contacted me about reading her novel -- I immediately jumped at the chance. I was even more excited when I received the book and saw that she signed it with a personal message!

I read STANDING STILL in less than 24 hours! I found it to be a very intense read and couldn't put it down -- I just had to find out what happened to Claire. The story begins with Claire, a mother of three who finds an intruder in her home. The stranger plans to kidnap her daughter, but Claire asks to be taken instead. The reader is immediately thrown into the story of her abduction. (See, I told you this book was gripping!)

As I read the first few chapters, I often found myself questioning Claire's thoughts and actions. It wasn't until I read more and truly began to learn about Claire's past that I started to understand and eventually sympathize with her. The author threw in flashback chapters that gave the reader a glimpse into Claire's past. I loved how these scenes gradually gave me insight into Claire and some of the reasons for her anxiety disorder. As the book came to a close, so many of the mysteries in this story were explained; and I found myself totally sympathizing with Claire.

Claire was a fascinating character to say the least! While many of her feelings towards being a mother and wife definitely fall into the category of normal, it became clear that Claire was suffering from a panic disorder which had a major impact on her life. This story is told by Claire in first person narrative, and I thought Ms. Simmons did an excellent job getting inside her head. Claire wasn't without her fair share of flaws, but I really enjoyed how she eventually assessed her life and the people in it and even gathered perspective about what's important.

Another interesting part of this novel was Claire's reaction to her kidnapper. The more time they spent together, the closer they became. Despite being locked into a hotel room, tied up and even abused, Claire still felt a bond with him. I am familiar with the term " Stockholm Syndrome," but I never really understood how it could be possible. I mean how could you actually start liking the person who abducted you? Despite my preconceived notions about this situation, I thought Ms. Simmons did a great job of making their relationship very believable and in keeping with Claire's personality.

I think many female book clubs would thoroughly enjoy discussing STANDING STILL especially those clubs like mine which are made up of suburban moms. While I'm not sure that there are a ton of women who will totally relate to Claire, I'm pretty sure that there are many of us who will see parts of her personality that exist if not in ourselves then definitely in someone we know. There are so many themes and issues to discuss, and I think there might even some differing opinions within your group (and maybe even a little bit of controversy.) There is an excellent reading group guide available in the back of the paperback version which will give your group some direction for its discussion. And if you really want a special book club meeting, I'm sure Ms. Simmons could be persuaded to call in and chat with you.

Make sure you come back and visit tomorrow because Kelly Simmons will be stopping by with a guest post. You will definitely want to read it and maybe there will even be a special treat - hint, hint...


Anonymous said...

That was my experience with this book too, I read it in less than 24 hours. I'm looking forward to reading Kelly's guest post tomorrow!

Melanie said...

The cover is so bright and cheery compared to your description of the book. If I'd seen it in the library I would have picked it up for the cover and been diaspointed by the story. For some reason I'm fixated on that cover, but it does sound like a great story.

bermudaonion said...

That sounds like one of those books that bothers you, yet you can't put it down. I'm adding it to my wish list. Great review, as always.

April said...

Excellent review!! This does sound very intense and like a great read! I am adding it to my list!

S. Krishna said...

This book sounds really interesting, I'll have to check it out!

Jo-Jo said...

Wow! This sounds like a great book...thanks for the review.

Mom of 5 Boys said...

ok, you've convinced me--I now want to read this book. Thanks!

Anna said...

Another one for my wish list! This one sounds really good.

Diary of an Eccentric