I loved pretty much everything about Kelly Simmons’ novel Standing Still. It’s always a relief to read something you can be excited about after a couple of mediocre books. Standing Still is just a terrific book: part page-turner (there’s an intriguing mystery at this book’s core) and part meditation on marriage and family and the lives women leave behind in order to have those things.
Claire Cooper, mother of three young daughters, spends a lot of time alone because her husband, Sam, travels for business. One night someone breaks into her house and Claire finds him about to make off with one of her daughters. “Take me,” she tells the man. “Take me instead.”
The man does take Claire and over the week of her captivity the reader has access to Claire’s thoughts about her children and husband, as well as to her growing relationship with her captor, a relationship that proves to be far more profound and moving than you might expect. Their relationship becomes one of intimacy and, dare I say it, friendship and I know there is probably some psychological explanation for what happens between kidnap victims and their abductors, but I don’t think that explanation would actually suffice in this case. Claire is carrying a lot of emotional baggage and for the first time in her life she is forced to confront some of it. It is her time with this unlikely ‘therapist’ that makes healing possible.
On top of all this human drama, Simmons is a beautiful writer. Claire is a fully realized character, fragile and brave. Her unnamed captor is equally interesting – a scene towards the novel’s conclusion where Claire makes the observation that, sleeping next to him will be the last time she’ll ever feel this safe (232) is both ironic and heartbreaking.
I also really loved that Claire is a woman who is trying to reconcile motherhood and marriage with the fact that she was, once, a very successful career woman. I loved her wild past, her ability to fall in love with a man based on a single characteristic, her yearning for that simple pleasure once again.
This was a book I couldn’t wait to get to at the end of the day…and one I was sorry to finish even as I was racing to the end.