One Breathe Away
by Heather Gudenkauf
Published: June 26th 2012 by Mira
In her most emotionally charged novel to date, “New York Times” bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf explores the unspoken events that shape a community, the ties between parents and their children and how the fragile normalcy of our everyday life is so easily shattered. In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man armed with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the town of Broken Branch watches and waits.
Officer Meg Barrett holds the responsibility for the town’s children in her hands. Will Thwaite, reluctantly entrusted with the care of his two grandchildren by the daughter who left home years earlier, stands by helplessly and wonders if he has failed his child again. Trapped in her classroom, Evelyn Oliver watches for an opportunity to rescue the children in her care. And thirteen-year-old Augie Baker, already struggling with the aftermath of a terrible accident that has has brought her to Broken Branch, will risk her own safety to protect her little brother.
As tension mounts with each passing minute, the hidden fears and grudges of the small town are revealed as the people of Broken Branch race to uncover the identity of the stranger who holds their children hostage.
The Bookish Brunette thought:
Every parent’s worst nightmare…
Your child is hurt, alone, frightened… And you are incapable of doing anything. That’s not even a nightmare. That’s a parent’s version of a living hell.
I almost can’t review this book. I honestly haven’t got the words. Torture. My own worst nightmare come to life throughout the pages of One Breathe Away.
As a mother, the MOMENT my babies were born- I was ready to lay my life down in exchange for theirs. It’s embedded into your very being, coursing through your blood and raging in your soul to love, cherish and PROTECT them at ANY cost.
And every time they smile, every time they want you to read the SAME bedtime story (for the 697th time in a row) you are aware they are safe and happy.
What do you do when that is taken away from you?
In One Breathe Away, we follow the personal nightmares in five different point of views…
Holly- Who’s children are a thousand miles away, living with a man she despises while she recovers from a horrible accident when she gets a phone call from her daughter… Telling her there’s a man… with a gun inside her school.
Augie- Holly’s daughter, is in the 8th grade and dreaming of going home to her mother when the school’s put under a Code Red lockdown.
Mrs. Evelyn Oliver- a 3rd grade teacher, wearing a hideous rhinestone encrusted denim dress and who is only weeks away from retirement didn’t even tell her husband she loved him before she left that morning.
Meg- the police officer on duty, whose daughter SHOULD be at school but thankfully isn’t… may end up having a bigger role in this tragedy than she could have ever imagined.
Will- Augie and PJ’s grandfather… Holly’s father. He’s just an old man, doing what he can.
Usually this many perspectives would completely irritate me, as I have a hard time jumping back and forth so much. But Heather Gudenkauf did it with such amazing intensity that I didn’t even realize that so many perspectives generally bug me until I was already finished!!!
As the past and present connect these characters, and their stories become one… One Breath Away is just completely memorizing, and terrifying as you’re thinking, “Oh God… This could happen to me.”
I cant begin to go into the intense emotions and literal terror I felt watching this story unfold. We subtly learn the back story of each of these unexpectedly wonderful characters (which makes it even HARDER to think these people are staring down the barrel of a gun into the eyes of a madman.) I must admit that I was most taken with Mrs. Oliver. She was brave, caring, sensitive, loving, sweet and simply amazing.
“We’re always one breathe away from something, living or dying, sometimes it just can’t be helped.”
I kept thinking I had everything all figured out, then my “suspect” would be blown out of the water. Which of course is a good thing! I’m flipping pages like a madwoman, wondering “WHO IS THIS GUY?????” And when it’s finally revealed…
There are no words. I was taken completely and totally by surprise!
One Breath Away is intense, overwhelming and beautifully written.
Now a word from Heather Gudenkauf:
What draws you to write suspenseful women’s fiction?
I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a child – yes, I was one of those kids who did a fist pump whenever the teacher assigned a writing project -but as is typical with most writers, I was and am, first and foremost an avid reader. As a child my favorite place in the world was our public library and I spent as much time as possible with my nose in a book. I loved mysteries and plowed my way through all the Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew Mystery books. One of my favorite mystery series growing up was The Boxcar Children which I recently learned was originally published in 1924. I read all the books that were available when I was a child, and again as an adult I read them to my own children with enthusiasm. Who can resist a story about a tight knit set of orphaned siblings, an abandoned boxcar, a dog, and the mystery surrounding a long lost grandfather?
As I got older, I continued to enjoy mystery and suspense novels but my interests expanded to a variety of genres, including books that explored the intricacies of the human heart: Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, Elizabeth Berg’s Pull of the Moon, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and so many more. I’ve always admired the way writers could take me away to different places and times through the written word. I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing but didn’t sit down and seriously begin until after I was married and had my children. But when I did, I remembered all the stories and books I’ve read through the years, remembered how deftly authors could arrange the words on a page to be suspenseful, heart wrenching, or heart-warming – to evoke all varieties of emotion. My hope is to do the same for my readers.