I cannot tell you just how excited I was to learn that Heather Gudenkauf had a new book ready for the shelves. I loved her first two – The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden, and just knew that One Breath Away would not disappoint. The plot revolves around an unknown man in a school with a gun, and the reaction to the emergency by school staff, students, emergency personnel and the residents of the town itself. There is also a freak snowstorm that makes everything just a little bit more complicated.
The story is told by five different characters. The first is Holly, a single mother to Augie and P.J., and who had recently suffered a major accident. She sent her children to live with her father, whom she hasn’t seen in 15 years, while she recovers. Will is Holly’s father, a lifelong Iowan farmer, who still doesn’t understand why his daughter ran off so long ago and is determined not to make the same mistakes with his grandchildren. Augie is Holly’s daughter; thirteen and headstrong. She is fiercely protective of her little brother, P.J. Mrs. Oliver is P.J.’s third grade teacher. She is ready to retire from the job she has always loved, and will do everything in her power to ensure the children’s safety. Meg is a police officer in this tiny Iowa town, and her daughter is also in Mrs. Oliver’s class.
These five viewpoints provide unique insights and discoveries into the horrific event taking place at the school. The quick pace and switching from person to person keeps the drama up and the reader’s interest firmly hooked into the story. It is honestly hard to tear yourself away! There were just a couple passages in the middle that started to feel repetitive, but that quickly passed with a new revelation or plot twist. In a situation like this, where there are essentially five protagonists, I would expect to only like a couple of them. But I could identify with every single one. They truly come into their own as the story progresses, and I loved watching them develop. I became invested in each of them, and was on the edge of my seat toward the end – hoping that somehow they would all make it out okay. I would highly recommend that book clubs take note of this book – there is so much to discuss, and I don’t want to spoil it for you!
One Breath Away
by Heather Gudenkauf
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