One Breath Away

( 67 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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 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.

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  • One Breath Away
    One Breath Away  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Edgar-finalist Gudenkauf’s chilling third suspense novel opens, elementary school children and their teachers in Broken Branch, Iowa, are anxiously awaiting the dismissal that will herald the beginning of their spring vacation. Suddenly, the voice of the school secretary comes over the intercom: “Teachers, this is a Code Red Lockdown. Go to your safe place.” A gunman has entered the school. The police rush to the scene, followed by anxious parents, while teachers deal with distraught children. Veteran teacher Evelyn Oliver must contend with the gunman himself, who holds her third graders hostage, doing all she can to protect her students. Eighth-grader Augie Thwaite bravely does her bit in an effort to rescue her little brother, P.J., a captive in Mrs. Oliver’s classroom. Gudenkauf (These Hidden Things) uses multiple viewpoints to keep the tension high and the reader glued to the pages. Agent: Marianne Merola, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (July)
From the Publisher
"Scintillating...The author slowly and expertly reveals the truth in a tale so chillingly real, it could have come from the latest headlines."

-Publishers Weekly starred review on These Things Hidden

"There's a particular darkness to her heartland, rife as it is with predators and the walking wounded, and her unsentimental take on the milieu manages to find some hope without being maudlin."

-Publisher Weekly on The Weight of Silence

"Heather Gudenkauf skillfully weaves an explosive tale of suspense and...the healing power of love."

-#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs on The Weight of Silence

"Heather Gudenkauf is one of those rare writers who can tell a tale with the skill of a poet while simultaneously cranking up the suspense until it's unbearable."

-New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen

"Brilliantly constructed, this will have you gripped until the last page."

-Closer on The Weight of Silence

"Fans of Jodi Picoult will devour this great thriller."

-Red Magazine on The Weight of Silence

"The Weight of Silence is a cleverly crafted exercise in sustaining tension. Her technique is faultless, sparse and simple and is a master class in how to construct a thriller...A memorable read...a brave first novel."

-Sunday Express

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780778313656
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 101,757
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Heather Gudenkauf is an Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Heather lives in Iowa with her husband and children. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and running.

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Read an Excerpt

Holly

I'm in that lovely space between consciousness and sleep. I feel no pain thanks to the morphine pump and I can almost believe that the muscles, tendons and skin of my left arm have knitted themselves back together, leaving my skin smooth and pale. My curly brown hair once again falls softly down my back, my favorite earrings dangle from my ears and I can lift both sides of my mouth in a wide smile without much pain at the thought of my children. Yes, drugs are a wonderful thing. But the problem is that while the carefully prescribed and doled-out narcotics by the nurses wonderfully dull the edges of this nightmare, I know that soon enough this woozy, pleasant feeling will fall away and all that I will be left with is pain and the knowledge that Augie and P.J. are thousands of miles away from me. Sent away to the place where I grew up, the town I swore I would never return to, the house I swore I would never again step into, to the man I never wanted them to meet.

The tinny melody of the ringtone that Augie, my thirteen-year-old daughter, programmed into my cell phone is pulling me from my sleep. I open one eye, the one that isn't covered with a thick ointment and crusted shut, and call out for my mother, who must have stepped out of the room. I reach for the phone that is sitting on the tray table at the side of my bed and the nerve endings in my bandaged left arm scream in protest at the movement. I carefully shift my body to pick up the phone with my good hand and press the phone to my remaining ear.

"Hello." The word comes out half-formed, breathless and scratchy, as if my lungs were still filled with smoke.

"Mom?" Augie's voice is quavery, unsure. Not sounding like my daughter at all. Augie is confident, smart, a take-charge, no one is ever going to walk all over me kind of girl.

"Augie? What's the matter?" I try to blink the fuzziness of the morphine away; my tongue is dry and sticks to the roof of my mouth. I want to take a sip of water from the glass sitting on my tray, but my one working hand holds the phone. The other lies useless at my side. "Are you okay? Where are you?"

There are a few seconds of quiet and then Augie continues. "I love you, Mom," she says in a whisper that ends in quiet sobs.

I sit up straight in my bed, wide awake now. Pain shoots through my bandaged arm and up the side of my neck and face. "Augie, what's the matter?"

"I'm at school." She is crying in that way she has when she is doing her damnedest not to. I can picture her, head down, her long brown hair falling around her face, her eyes squeezed shut in determination to keep the tears from falling, her breath filling my ear with short, shallow puffs. "He has a gun. He has P.J. and he has a gun."

"Who has P.J.?" Terror clutches at my chest. "Tell me, Augie, where are you? Who has a gun?"

"I'm in a closet. He put me in a closet."

My mind is spinning. Who could be doing this? Who would do this to my children? "Hang up," I tell her. "Hang up and call 9-1-1 right now, Augie. Then call me back. Can you do that?" I hear her sniffles. "Augie," I say again, more sharply. "Can you do that?"

"Yeah," she finally says. "I love you, Mom," she says softly.

"I love you, too." My eyes fill with tears and I can feel the moisture pool beneath the bandages that cover my injured eye.

I wait for Augie to disconnect when I hear three quick shots, followed by two more and Augie's piercing screams.

I feel the bandages that cover the left side of my face peel away, my own screams loosening the adhesive holding them in place; I feel the fragile, newly grafted skin begin to unravel. I am scarcely aware of the nurses and my mother rushing to my side, tearing the phone from my grasp.

Augie

My pants are still damp from when Noah Plum pushed me off the shoveled sidewalk into a snowbank after we got off the bus and were on our way into school this morning. Noah Plum is the biggest asshole in eighth grade but for some reason I'm the only one who has figured this out and I've only lived here for eight weeks and everyone else has lived here for their entire lives. Except for maybe Milana Nevara, whose dad is from Mexico and is the town veterinarian. But she moved here when she was two so she may as well have been born here, anyway.

The classroom is freezing and my fingers are numb with the cold. Mr. Ellery says it's because it is not supposed to be below zero at the end of March and the boiler has been put out to pasture. Mr. Ellery, my teacher and one of the only good things about this school, is sitting at his desk grading papers. Everyone, except Noah, of course, is writing in their notebooks. Each day after lunch we start class with journal time and we can write about anything we want to during the first ten minutes of class. Mr. Ellery said we could even write the same word over and over for the entire time and Noah asked, "What if it's a bad word?"

"Knock yourself out," Mr. Ellery said, and everyone laughed. Mr. Ellery always gives time for people to read what they've written out loud if they'd like to. I've never shared. No way I'm going to let these morons know what I'm thinking. I've read Harriet the Spy and I keep my notebook with me all the time. Never let it out of my sight.

In my old school in Arizona, there were over two hundred eighth graders in my grade and we had different teachers for each subject. In Broken Branch there are only twenty-two of us so we have Mr. Ellery for just about every subject. Mr. Ellery, besides being really cute, is the absolutely best teacher I've ever had. He's funny, but never makes fun of anyone and isn't sarcastic like some teachers think is so hilarious. He also doesn't let people get away with making crap out of anyone. All he has to do is stare at the person and they shut up. Even Noah Plum.

Mr. Ellery always writes a journal prompt on the dry erase board in case we can't think of what to write about. Today he has written "During spring break I am going to…"

Even Mr. Ellery's stare doesn't work today; everyone is whispering and smiling because they are excited about vacation. "All right, folks," Mr. Ellery says. "Get down to work and if we have some time left over we'll play Pictionary."

"Yesss!" the kids around me hiss. Great. I open my notebook to the next clean page and begin writing.

"During spring break we're going to fly back to Arizona to see our mother." The only sounds in the classroom are the scratch of pencils on paper and Erika's annoying sniffles; she always has a runny nose and gets up twenty times a day to get a tissue. "I don't care if I ever see snow or cows ever again. I don't care if I ever see my grandfather again." I am hoping with all my might that instead of coming back to Broken Branch after spring break, my mother will be well enough for us to come home. My grandfather tells us this isn't going to happen. My mother is far from being able to come home from the hospital. My mom will be in Arizona until she is out of the hospital and well enough to get on a plane and come here so Grandma and Grandpa, who I met for the first time ever a couple months ago, can take care of all of us. But it doesn't matter what my grandpa says—after spring break, I am not coming back to Broken Branch.

A sharp crack, like a branch snapped in half during an ice storm, makes me look up from my notebook. Mr. Ellery hears it, too, and stands up from behind his desk and walks to the classroom door, steps into the hallway and comes back in shrugging his shoulders. "Looks like someone broke a window at the end of the hallway. I'm going to go check. You guys stay in your seats. I'll be right back."

Before he can even leave the classroom the shaky voice of Mrs. Lowell, the school secretary, comes on the intercom. "Teachers, this is a Code Red Lockdown. Go to your safe place."

A snort comes from Noah. "Go to your safe place," he says, mimicking Mrs. Lowell. No one else says a thing and we all stare at Mr. Ellery, waiting for him to tell us what to do next. I haven't been here long enough to know what a Code Red Lockdown is. But it can't be good.

Mrs. Oliver

The morning the man with the gun walked into Evelyn Oliver's classroom, she was wearing two items she had vowed during her forty-three-year career as a teacher never to wear. Denim and rhinestones. Mrs. Oliver was a firm believer that a teacher should look like a teacher. Well-groomed, blouses with collars, skirts and pantsuits crisply ironed, dress shoes polished. None of that nonsense younger teachers wore these days. Miniskirts, tennis shoes, plunging necklines. Tattoos, for goodness' sake. For instance, Mr. Ellery, the young eighth-grade teacher, had a tattoo on his right arm. A series of bold black slashes and swoops that Mrs. Oliver recognized as Asian in origin. "It means teacher in Chinese," Mr. Ellery, wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, told her after, embarrassingly, he caught her staring at his deltoid muscle one stifling-hot August afternoon during in-service week when all the teachers were preparing their classrooms for the school year. Mrs. Oliver sniffed in disapproval, but really she couldn't help but wonder how painful it must be to have someone precisely and methodically inject ink into one's skin.

Casual Fridays were the worst, with teachers, even the older ones, wearing denim and sweatshirts emblazoned with the school name and logo—the Broken Branch Consolidated School Hornets.

But on this unusually bitter March day, the last day school was in session before spring break, Mrs. Oliver had on the denim jumper she now knew she was going to die while wearing. Shameful, she thought, after all these years of razor-sharp pleats and itchy support hose.

Last week, after all the other third graders had left for the day, Mrs. Oliver had tentatively opened the crumpled striped pink-and-yellow gift bag handed to her by Charlotte, a skinny, disheveled eight-year-old with shoulder-length, burnished-black hair that chronically housed a persistent family of lice.

"What's this, Charlotte?" Mrs. Oliver asked in surprise. "My birthday isn't until this summer."

"I know," Charlotte answered with a gap-toothed grin. "But my mom and me thought you'd get more use out of it if I gave it to you now."

Mrs. Oliver expected to find an apple-scented candle or homemade cookies or a hand-painted birdhouse inside, but instead pulled out a denim stone-washed jumper with rhinestones painstakingly arranged in the shape of a rainbow twinkling up at her. Charlotte looked expectantly up at Mrs. Oliver through the veil of bangs that covered her normally mischievous gray eyes.

"I Bedazzled it myself. Mostly," Charlotte explained. "My mom helped with the rainbow." She placed a grubby finger on the colorful arch. "Roy V. Big. Red, orange, yellow, violet, blue, indigo, green. Just like you said." Charlotte smiled brightly, showing her small, even baby teeth, still all intact.

Mrs. Oliver didn't have the heart to tell Charlotte that the correct mnemonic for remembering the colors in the rainbow was Roy G. Biv, but took comfort in that fact that she at least knew all the colors of the rainbow if not the proper order. "It's lovely, Charlotte," Mrs. Oliver said, holding the dress in front of her. "I can tell you worked hard on it."

"I did," Charlotte said solemnly. "For two weeks. I was going to Bedazzle a birthday cake on the front but then my mom said you might wear it more if it wasn't so holidayish. I almost ran out of beads. My little brother thought they were Skittles."

"I will certainly get a lot of wear out of it. Thank you, Charlotte." Mrs. Oliver reached over to pat Charlotte on the shoulder and Charlotte immediately leaned in and wrapped her arms around Mrs. Oliver's thick middle, pressing her face into the buttons of her starched white blouse. Mrs. Oliver felt a tickle beneath her iron-gray hair and resisted the urge to scratch.

It was Mrs. Oliver's husband, Cal, who had convinced her to wear the dress. "What can it hurt?" he asked just this morning when he caught her standing in front of her open closet, looking at the jumper garishly glaring right back at her.

"I don't wear denim to school, and I'm certainly not going to start wearing it just before I retire," she said, not looking him in the eye, remembering how Charlotte had rushed eagerly into the classroom at the beginning of the week to see if she was wearing the dress.

"She worked on it for two weeks," Cal reminded her at the breakfast table.

"It's not professional," she snapped, thinking of how on each passing day this week, Charlotte's shoulders wilted more and more as she entered the room to find her teacher wearing her typical wool-blend slacks, blouse and cardigan.

"Her fingers bled," Cal said through a mouthful of oatmeal.

"It's supposed to be ten below outside today. It's too cold to wear a dress," Mrs. Oliver told her husband, miserably picturing how Charlotte wouldn't even look her way yesterday, defiantly pursing her lips and refusing to answer any questions directed at her.

"Wear long johns and a turtleneck underneath," her husband said mildly, coming up behind her and kissing her on the neck in the way that even after forty-five years of marriage caused her to shiver deliciously.

Because he was right—Cal was always right—she had brushed him away in irritation and told him she was going to be late for school if she didn't get dressed right then. Wearing the jumper, she left him sitting at the kitchen table finishing his oatmeal, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. She hadn't told him she loved him, she hadn't kissed his wrinkled cheek in goodbye. "Don't forget to plug in the Crock-Pot," she called as she stepped outside into the soft gray morning. The sun hadn't emerged yet, but it was the warmest it would be that day, the temperature tumbling with each passing hour. As she climbed into her car to make the twenty-five-minute drive from her home in Dalsing to the school in Broken Branch, she didn't realize it could be the last time she made that journey.

It was worth it, she supposed, after seeing Charlotte's face transform from jaded disappointment to pure joy when she saw that Mrs. Oliver was actually wearing the dress. Of course Cal was right. Wearing the impractical, gaudy thing wouldn't hurt anything; she'd had to suffer the raised eyebrows in the teacher's lounge, but that was nothing new. And it obviously had meant a lot to Charlotte, who was now cowering in her desk along with fifteen other third graders, gaping up at the man with the gun. At least, Mrs. Oliver thought, shocking herself with the inappropriateness of the idea, if he shot her in the chest, she couldn't be buried in the damn thing.

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Interviews & Essays

A quaint college town surrounded by craggy bluffs and thick woods and the desperate search for two missing children; a renovated bookstore settled near the banks of the rushing, winding Druid River and the mystery surrounding the birth of one little boy; a close-knit farming community and a small, rural school breached by an intruder with a gun and unknown motives. All settings for my first three novels. Fictional accounts? Absolutely! Fictional locations? Not quite.
I've lived in Iowa most of my life and in the years that I have been a student and a teacher, school has been canceled for snow, ice, wind-chill, and floods. I know that an impenetrable dense fog that can close highways and schools in the morning can be swept away in just a few short hours by a warm, soft breeze. One year, on the first day of school, high winds ripped the roof off of the section where my third grade classroom was located sending it crashing through the ceiling of another portion of the school where children sat moments earlier.
That's Iowa for you. And in each of my novels I have woven meaningful real-life locations into my fictional settings. In The Weight of Silence the Willow Creek Woods was fashioned from Swiss Valley Nature Preserve a beautiful forested area with the twisty Catfish Creek snaking through it, where I have spent countless hours hiking and where the seeds for my first novel sprouted.
Also plucked from my own life and dropped into my second novel These Things Hidden is River Lights, 2nd Edition, my favorite independent bookstore that is the model for Bookends where much of the novel takes place. River Lights is nestled in a gorgeous 1870s building, the former Pusateri's Grocery, with its original wooden floors and tin ceilings, located in the heart of downtown Dubuque, Iowa, the perfect home to match the shop's warmth and charm. Visitors are invited to bring their dogs into the store and will be welcomed with an organic doggie treat upon arrival. But of course the best part of the bookstore is the staff. They are always there to ask about my family and are always ready with a book recommendation. I am never disappointed with what they suggest. While the bookstore in These Things Hidden is the scene of a very dramatic (even traumatic) event within the novel, whenever I enter the bricks-and-mortar storefront it feels like coming home.
In my newest novel, One Breath Away, the setting of the book, the small farming community of Broken Branch, Iowa, was inspired by the anything-but-broken real-life town of Wellman, Iowa. Wellman is a community of about 1,500 with a prominent Amish population and, along with my hometown of Dubuque, epitomizes what is common to so many Iowa communities: a wonderful sense of family and generosity to those in need. Like the fictional townspeople in One Breath Away, the inhabitants of Wellman come through for their friends and neighbors. Even strangers. For example, when the parents of four Wellman children were killed in a terrible car accident, everyone -- from the kindergarten class at the elementary school to the Rosary Society at one of the local churches -- in the community united. When a young local boy was seriously injured in an ATV accident, again they came together. And when a virtual stranger's son was diagnosed with bone cancer the community took the family in as their own — saying prayers, sending notes of encouragement, raising money. Wellman is also where this city girl learned about cattle farming and the difference between heifer and a cow — and there is a difference!
The best thing about all of this is that that's just Iowa for you. You could close your eyes and stick a pin in a map of Iowa and the inhabitants of any city, town, or burg would react in the exact same ways. A farmer you've never met will stop to help you when you are hopelessly lost on a barren county road (true story) and a group of twelve year old boys would shave their heads in allegiance with a classmate going through chemotherapy (another true story). These along with so many other reasons are why I continue to write about my home state of Iowa.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 67 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(37)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 67 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Heather Gudenkauf has amazed me before with her poignant and oft

    Heather Gudenkauf has amazed me before with her poignant and oftentimes difficult to read novels, but this time she goes above and beyond with this tale of the worst nightmare that, a school, parents, teachers and a town should ever endure. She had me gritting my teeth and holding my breath from the first page had me so entranced that I read it in one sitting. She brought me characters that had my sympathy, my empathy and my respect from the beginning and by the end I knew each one intimately. Her storyline is one that you could easily find on any media source local or national and as she tells her main tale she intersperses mini stories of the lives and challenges of her amazing characters and in doing so makes stars of them all. Her narrative is succinct and pull no punches and her dialogue gives perfect voices to her players.
    If you’re looking for a novel with substance and depth, a read that will make you think and relish the quote “there for the grace of God go I” this is your one Must Read of the summer.
    In a small farming community in Iowa disaster is about to strike on the last day of school before spring break. With a snow storm brewing and temperatures falling to frigid a desperate man walks into the Broken Branch K-12 school building and begins his reign of terror. More than a thousand miles away a woman is painfully recovering from burns suffered from a fire who thought sending her children to her childhood home in Broken Branch Iowa would be safe and has no idea what awaits them. A local policewoman dreads time off without her daughter not knowing what her last day on the job before vacation will be bringing her. A grandfather struggling caring for his grandchildren who were virtual strangers has no idea what he or they will face this day. A third grade teacher is about to learn what sacrifice really is. An angry misplaced teen right in the middle of it all will learn about bravery. All these people will be connected in a way that no person should ever have to experience and “One Breath Away” is all it takes to change these lives forever.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 15, 2012

    Awesome Book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    She just keeps getting better. The best one yet, and the other two were good. I got an advance reader copy on e-bay and I could not put it down. What a great story. This could happen anywhere.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2012

    Must read!

    GREAT BOOK! CANNOT PUT IT DOWN!! Highly suggest as a must read! Seriously may be up all night reading and it is totally worth it!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2012

    Very good book. Suspenseful book that was hard to put down.

    Very good book. Suspenseful book that was hard to put down.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    I have read Heather Gudenkauf"s other novels, all good, bu

    I have read Heather Gudenkauf"s other novels, all good, but One Breath Away is her best! I was engaged in the plot from the brginning and read it in a day - could not put it down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    No freaking way...

    I'm sorry, but who would read this for pleasure after what happened at Sandy Hooks Elementary School in Connecticut?

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2012

    Not at this time.

    I can not possibly read this book after the school shootings that just happened in Conn.

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 8, 2012

    Terrible

    An author told me that Heather Gudenkauf was her favorite author and that she loved "One Breath Away". I had to read it next, I love to read books from different authors than I've read before - always searching for a gem. Well, this book is no gem, more like a ring from a vending machine. The book is poorly written, and seemed rather elementary. For the most part the characters were under developed, the plot so-so, the outcome predictable and the ending stunted. Some reviews indicate that the first two books from this author were much better. However, I don't know if I'll ever invest time and money into this authors previous work, since this book was so poorly written.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2012

    Once I started reading "One Breath Away", it was nearl

    Once I started reading "One Breath Away", it was nearly impossible to put down! The plot was so intense; an unknown gunman in a school classroom, holding students hostage, and keeping the rest of the school in a lock down mode. Through the twists and turns it presented (what with police investigations causing you to believe the gunman was one person, when in reality, it was somebody else entirely) it was unbelievably suspenseful. The way that the author incorporated multiple character's point of views really made it easier to understand how many people are seriously affected by this event, rather than just simply the children in the school at the time. It's one of those amazing books that really gets you thinking about how the scenario it portrays could actually happen in reality at any moment. When you send your child off to school each and every day of the week, you are risking something as horrifying as what occurs in this book, happening to your child, while they are away from home. With this being said, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys extremely intense plots in what they are reading, or to anyone who is willing to spend all day and all night reading it, for you truly do need to have a large amount of willpower to put it down!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2014

    This was a page turner!

    This was a page turner!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    One Breath Away...Breathtakingly Amazing Title: One Breath Away

    One Breath Away...Breathtakingly Amazing

    Title: One Breath Away
    Author: Heather Gudenkauf
    Length: 384 pages
    Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
    Published: June 26, 2013
    Genres: Fiction; Suspense Fiction

    My Rating: ¿¿¿¿¿




    Synopsis:
    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 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.




    My Review:
    After reading These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf, I had very high expectations for One Breath Away and I must admit that she certainly didn't disappoint yet again with One Breath Away. Gudenkauf has managed to write a perfectly concise and organized fast-paced novel. I thoroughly enjoy Gudenkauf's writing style in that she tends to write from several different POV's throughout the book, but not only do we get a good picture about what's going on in the present, she also provide plenty of glimpses of what has happened in the past to get the characters to where they are today. 




    There's nothing better when you're reading a book and you just can't put it down because you are dying to know what the outcome of the story is, and One Breath Away is one of those books. It is one of those prop you eyelids open way into the early hours of the morning, even though you know you have to get up in a matter of hours kind of book! It doesn't get much better than that!




    I thought that the characters were so rich and deep that I couldn't help but fall into their story and get lost in their lives. All of the characters in this book were all so different from each other, that even though there were quite a few characters, there was never any confusion as to which character you were reading about. 




    This story is dramatic, agonizing, heartfelt, traumatic, and the list of adjectives could go on forever, but the best way to describe it is as it's simply amazing. I thought I had figured out the outcome on so many different occasions, that I lost count, but in the end, sat, shell-shocked, because the outcome was not one that I could have EVER predicted. 




    Overall, I must say that there isn't one thing I can say badly or that I didn't like about One Breath Away. It's books like this that keep my excitement boiling for each new adventure that I come across in every book that I pick up (or listen to)! It is authors and writing like this that keeps my desire for reading so alive and passionate. After These Things Hidden and One Breath Away, I definitely won't hesitate to consider Heather Gudenkauf one of my top go-to author's, as she has an impeccable writing abilities!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2013

    Great

    This was agreat book. I think it was a little hard to tie together everything but as i read on I under stoof and it came along perfectly. One of the best books I've read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    exceptional book

    I really enjoyed this book it was one of those that was hard to put down because you needed to know how it ended!

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  • Posted April 29, 2013

    DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK.

    This book was really slow. Not my favorite.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by: April Book provided by: Contest win at Revolving Bo

    Reviewed by: April
    Book provided by: Contest win at Revolving Bookcase
    Review originally posted at Romancing the Book




    An amazingly gripping and shell shocking read, One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf is a story that rings true in today’s society and is one that will not leave this reader’s mind for some time.




    We live in a world where we have to be on alert constantly. There are people out there that care less for the lives of others and see those lives as disposable. The world we live in today is one of greed and immorality and a place where even the innocence of our children can be ripped away in a heartbeat. One Breath Away is this story. This is a story of a man set on revenge and without conscience, who will harm those who gets in his way without a second thought.




    Ms. Gudenkauf writes her story from the POV of five of the main characters within the story. Holly, a mother of two wonderful children who is in the hospital recovering from severe burns from an accident; Augie, Holly’s daughter; Mrs. Oliver a teacher at the school where Augie and her brother, P.J. attend; Will, Augie’s Grandfather and Holly’s Father and Meg, one of the town’s Police Officers. If not done correctly, all of these POV changes could easily have been disastrous; however this is not the case. The changes are seamless and truly lend to the effect of the story.




    One Breath Away begins in such a captivating way that it truly grabbed me from the very beginning and beckoned me to continue reading. I became emotionally involved with each of these characters; gripping the book from tension and feeling my heart skip in anxiety and nervousness. Being a mother of two younger children, myself, both school-aged, I could relate to the terror of such a thing happening. Gut-wrenching and soul searing to the extreme.




    Within this story, the author takes us into each of the main character’s lives – using flashbacks of past occurrences that make the characters the people they are, incidents that shaped them into the individuals that will affect how they handle the terror of what happens when a school is taken hostage one snow-stormy day in a small town of Iowa. I think that my favorite character would have to be Augie. She is so strong and courageous, unwilling to leave her younger brother behind to save herself. Augie will do anything to protect him and her countless selfless acts endured me strongly to her.




    Told in vivid detail, One Breath Away is a story filled with twists and turns and several surprises. I honestly thought that I had the gunman figured out several times, only to read a few pages later that I was totally and completely wrong – not to mentioned shocked with the reason that I was wrong. I loved how the author was able to do this. Heather Gudenkauf has an incredible talent which shines through in One Breath Away. The flow of the story was excellent, the detail and character development was wonderful and the fact that she has written a story that truly focuses on the truth of society makes this a gripping story that many readers will be able to relate to on many different levels. I cannot wait to read more works by this author and highly recommend One Breath Away to anyone looking for a true-to-life type of story that will hold them captive from the first page until the last.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Titokaca

    Scary story line. I was reading it when the Newtown, Ct shooting happened and it really was relevant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    recommended

    This story about a gunman holding children and a teacher hostage is an interesting novel, with believable characters, told through five of the characters. While I can't say it's a great read, it is a good one.

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  • Posted February 20, 2013

    It¿s difficult to paste an age group onto this book. It can be r

    It’s difficult to paste an age group onto this book. It can be read by young adults and older, and some of the main characters fall within that age category. However, the theme is very dark, more than half of the main characters are adults, so I would classify it as an adult book, but not necessarily something that can be read by adults only.

    In Broken Branch, the tight-knit community never suspected an armed gunman would break into their school and hold their children hostage. When the unthinkable happens, police officer Meg is relieved her child is with her ex-husband when all hell breaks loose. Even though so, she feels a strong connection with the children trapped inside the school with the mad man, and is determined to find them and rescue them.

    The book ties in closely with the real-life shootings in Connecticut and other places, and the reality of it all made this book all the more gripping for me. Just the thought that it could truly happen sends shivers down my spine. However, even that can’t make up for what this book so greatly lacks. Suspense and drive.

    The book is told from the POV of five different characters. That would’ve been fine, if the characters had actual personalities and narrative voices distinguishing them from another. They have, but only up to some point; I foun that some of them read more-or-less the same. They were also too superficial,and it was hard for me to guess their emotions, their drive, why they were doing what they were doing. I would’ve liked more character depth and emotions, as it would’ve made me more sympathetic toward them.

    The plot itself was pretty straightforward and predictable, even if there was a game of ‘who is the gunman’ for the first half of the book. I guessed the gunman’s identity early on, so I wasn’t surprised by the ending. What did surprise me – and all right, this may be a bit morbid, but hang on – is that it seemed like things were tomed down. It is pretty horrifying if a gunman breaks into your school, regardless of whether someone actually gets hurt, I’ll give the author that. But, and here’s a major spoiler, it seemed unrealistic that not more people would’ve been hurt. Maybe that’s just me, and trust me, I don’t like to see people get hurt, not in real life but not in a book either, but it would’ve made the story more plausible.

    I did like the small-town mentality, and how the book covers only a few hours but seems to take an eternity to get to the point. It’s nice symbolism to the slowing tension the characters must’ve experienced from the moment the gunman entered their school. I liked how we got to see the entire story from different points of view, but like I said, a bit more character and plot development would’ve done wonders.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    What a page turner!!!! I could not put this book down.  Great c

    What a page turner!!!!

    I could not put this book down.  Great characters, engaging story, well written.  Can't wait to read her other books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    Easy read - a page turner

    This is not a book that I've read that I had to tell all my friends to read after. Not that it's not good....it's just not THAT good. The author's style of writing is easy to read (not too descriptive), the plot is believable and at the end of most chapters you were left with the desire to read more.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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