Friday, November 3, 2017

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

Synopsis (via Goodreads): 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. 

"Will," Marlys said sharply. "If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging."
“That's the wonderful thing about the human heart, there's room enough for all kinds of love.”
Negative: so many grammatical errors. I feel like these take away from the flow of a story. I'll be caught up in a book, but then a misspelled word or an incorrect pronoun will stop my thoughts. I have to pause and read through it all again to see what word was meant to be there, or how a sentence was intended to be written.

One of the first books I read when I started reviewing (many, many years ago) was Heather Gudenkauf's The Weight of Silence. It was an emotional, gut-twisting book that I haven't been able to bring myself to read again. It was a great book on a horrible topic, almost like One Breath Away. Now that I am a mother, I view things like this a little differently. Instead of imagining any child being held hostage in a school, I picture my child and it freaks me out. What would I do in that situation? I hope I never have to find out. 

This story is told through multiple perspectives. Five, I think. If you don't like cliffhangers, you might not like the way this story is told. Every chapter seems to end right in the middle of something important, so you're left wondering what just happened as you read about events through someone else's eyes. Then that person leaves you with more questions than answers, and you move on to the next. Every time it circles back around, the story picks up and progresses a little more. 

I was so very tempted to skip to the end and find out who was behind everything. It tells you how good the story is, because I desperately wanted to know how it ended and the anticipation was brutal. I love when I'm unable to figure a story out, and One Breath Away didn't disappoint. I never skipped ahead, and I'm glad I didn't. It was a beautiful, unexpected story.


  1. I love that it surprised you. I like being surprised. What’s with the editing fails? Isn’t she a traditionally published author? Did they really not catch everything?

    1. I don't mind a mistake every so often, nothing is perfect, but there were too many to ignore. It was unexpected, because I assumed it went through a thorough editing process. It took away from the story, and I hate that.

      Editing aside, the book was great. I was completely surprised with the ending.

  2. I'm glad you could enjoy it despite the errors. I don't mind a few mistakes but when you have to re-read and try to figure out the author's meaning that can get frustrating.

    For What It's Worth


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