Skip to Main Content

Standing Still

A Novel

About The Book

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.

Reading Group Guide

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.
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 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

About The Author

Photo Credit: Spencer Bolling

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

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (February 10, 2009)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743289733

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

“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

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Kelly Simmons