"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.