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One Breath Away

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,122 Ratings  ·  1,843 Reviews
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
Paperback, 370 pages
Published June 26th 2012 by Harlequin MIRA (first published May 29th 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 13, 2012 Christa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook-arc
One Breath Away is a great example of why Heather Gudenkauf has quickly become a must-read author for me. She is a master storyteller, and I loved every second that I spent reading this book. The author was able to rachet the tension so high that I felt like I was on pins and needles, breathless, throughout the entire story. Gudenkauf created characters that I quickly cared about, and I sympathized with them and hoped for a positive outcome to their situation. Telling the story from different vi ...more
This is the second book I've read by Heather Gudenkauf and it is absolutely outstanding! This is an extremely well-written, fast-paced novel with well-drawn out characters, each one had their issues and their flaws, yet all of them were likeable. The plot is gripping and full of action and suspense. The story is told from the perspective of five characters involved in the school hostage situation; Augie (a student in the school), Mrs Oliver (a teacher), Holly (the mother of Augie who is in hospi ...more
Mandie Kok
Feb 22, 2013 Mandie Kok rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: undiscerning readers, masochists
Recommended to Mandie by: Fiction Fanatics
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I knew it was about a school shooting, or at least a gunman inside a school, so I thought it would either be a tear-jerk drama, or a psychological thriller. I was hoping for the latter.

My heart was definitely pounding harder while reading this book, but not from the thrill. I experienced rage at how unbelievably stupid the characters were. Rarely do I want to harm a book, but I wanted to smack this one against the floor, tear out pages with my teeth,
Lisa B.
May 22, 2012 Lisa B. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2012-books
This is my first Heather Gudenkauf book and oooooh - what a dandy. The story is fast paced and hooked me from the very first page. I like the way the story unfolded from five different viewpoints: Augie, Will, Mrs. Oliver, Meg and Holly. Not only did we move forward with each charcter, but also backwards to get an understanding of each individual and what lead them to this fateful day.

Ms. Gundenkauf writes a well organized, fast paced story. I always like that I have to get to the very end befor
Jul 21, 2016 Laura rated it it was ok
Shelves: two-star
When you have recently read an excellent book - and have somewhat of a book hangover - the only problem is the next book has to also be pretty special to keep the momentum going. I chose this novel based on its favourable reviews, it sounded just my cup of tea. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in its execution.

Written in the style of Jodi Picoult (I am a fan of hers); told from the perspectives of several characters, we are introduced to the townspeople involved in a hostage situation taking pl
Lauren Hopkins
Jul 04, 2012 Lauren Hopkins rated it liked it
POSSIBLE's a pretty good book and the author, Heather Gudenkauf, is such an interesting storyteller, unfolding the events of only a few hours in such a way that keeps you heavily invested. However, she throws so many red herrings your way that it makes it so easy to guess who's responsible. A man with a gun has entered a school in a small town in Iowa and the town races to find out who he is to stop him from killing a potentially great deal of people. There are many characters brou ...more
Sep 12, 2014 Tania rated it really liked it
I read this 400 page book in one day, I just could not put it down. The main story is about a gunman holding kids hostage in a small town school, as told by four characters. One breath had me on the edge of my seat and guessing until the last chapters. The characters was also very well rounded with enough flaws to make them seem real. This is my second book by Heather Gundenkauf, and I will be reading everything she publishes
Kelly Hager
Jun 01, 2012 Kelly Hager rated it really liked it
This is my second book by Heather Gudenkauf (I still need to read her first novel) and this one is just phenomenal. I think it's hard to balance multiple narratives and make each one equally compelling (and a unique voice) and she manages to pull off five narrators in this book (Holly, her father and her daughter, plus a teacher at the school---the gunman is actually in her class---and a police officer investigating the case). Obviously I cared the most about Augie and Mrs. Oliver (the ones most ...more
Mark Rubinstein
Sep 06, 2012 Mark Rubinstein rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Given the spate of school shootings over the past few years, you would assume a novel about a gunman taking children hostage at a school in a small town would be as suspenseful as it is timely. Unfortunately, I found the suspense lacking and the tension watered down by the novel's construction which was skillfully done, but slowed the novel's narrative drive.

The story is told through the eyes of five narrators, all experiencing the horror and processing it in different ways. They are a mother o
Greta is Erikasbuddy
I can't believe it!

Heather Gudenkauf has done it again!!

With a story that could be ripped straight from the headlines this book revolves around a gunman and a school.

Told in 5 points of view we get to hear straight from a child, a teacher, a grandfather, a mother/police officer, and another mother.

This story is intense. How would you feel if your child was trapped in a school in a hostage situation? What about your grandchild? What if you were the teacher who was being held hostage? What if the
Aug 21, 2014 Christine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
One Breath Away is extremely slow, nothing happens. Each chapter brings stories of the characters that are totally unrelated to the main plot. Many useless details are there as page fillers, but the story never fully develops. The main characters are not believable, nothing is clear and the end is just disappointing and unreal.
Diane S ☔
May 05, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
As I was reading this book I kept thinking "This would make an awesome movie", not because of the way it was written but because the suspense makes one want to keep turning the pages. There is a gunman in the school. a school in a rural area that holds grades K-12, and the school goes on lock down. This is not another Columbine though, the shooter is there for a specific purpose and for a specific person. The who and the why are the big questions and the story is related by four different narrat ...more
Crystal Craig
Nov 06, 2015 Crystal Craig rated it it was ok
Heather Gudenkauf's, One Breath Away is a character-driven novel full of suspense, but to me there seemed to be something missing. The entire time I was reading, I couldn't help thinking, been there, done that - like I'd read a similar storyline before. Also, the short choppy chapters and some of the back-story took away from the urgency of what was going on at the school. And, when the who and why was all revealed, I just wasn't sold. Having said all that, I did enjoy the characters. P.J. and A ...more
Kathy Worrell  ツ
Jan 10, 2016 Kathy Worrell ツ rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars!

Have you ever read a book that when you were done, you wish that you could erase your memory and read it again? In my opinion, One Breath Away is that kind of book!!!

I have read all of Heather's books and this one is my favorite, and for me it is tied with Whistling Past the Graveyard for my favorite book of the year.

Set in a small town, an unexpected snow storm rolls in creating its own chaos. Then an unknown person (or perhaps not) walks into the local school and holds a classroom o
Maudeen Wachsmith
Apr 11, 2012 Maudeen Wachsmith rated it it was amazing
I am reading this now and cannot put it down. Gudenkauf, has it it out of the ballpark yet again as she did with THESE THINGS HIDDEN and A BREATH OF SILENCE. ONE BREATH AWAY is a story ripped from the headlines: A gunman is holding children hostage at their school in a small town in Iowa. Who is he? And what is his motive? Through the voices of a female police officer, a third-grade teacher just about to retire, the grandfather of two of the students -- and his daughter lying in a hospital a tho ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

Keeping the tension high with short chapters, shifts in perspective and a situation that every parent dreads in the wake of Columbine and similar school tragedies, Gudenkauf has written a pacy suspense thriller that kept me turning the pages into the early hours of the morning.

In small town Iowa, a gunman holds a school hostage. Outside a blizzard rages while the police scramble to identify the man and prevent a massacre. Thousands of miles away a mother receives a phone call, "He has a gun."

Soma Rostam "IOB"
Jan 24, 2013 Soma Rostam "IOB" rated it really liked it
I have not read anything by the author, but from the blogging world, I know that her books are popular. And I consider her as one of the authors that I will always be on the look out for.
Holly, Augie, Will, Meg, and Mrs.Oliver's lives change drastically when a gunman enters the school, one cold day. Mrs. Oliver will do anything to keep her little students safe and sound from the gunman. Meg will go to extreme measures to do her duty and find out who the gunman in the local school is. Will will
I was catching my breath multiple times as I read this book like a fast-moving train headed for a collision I knew I couldn't stop! Heather Gudenkauf kept me hooked on an adrenalin rush as I sped through her chapter vignettes of each character's reactions and reactions to a gunman holding elementary school children hostage during an unexpected, debilitating snowstorm in a small town. While the book sounds like a clone of Columbine, it's not. I'm sure there may be similarities in how we might ima ...more
Feb 02, 2014 Suzyn rated it really liked it
A well-done thriller with some pacing issues. Would have been five stars if it hadn't flipped back to the least interesting character in the book multiple times DURING THE CLIMAX. Also, I would have liked to hear a little more about who the perpetrator was and had that information revealed in a more interesting way.

For the last quarter of the book, I kinda felt like the author was playing with me the way I play with my cat, dangling what I wanted and constantly snatching it away. But she couldn
Jul 15, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing
OMG OMG OMG!!! I just love Heather's books! This one pulls you in from the very first page and does not let go! Each chapter is told by one person as events unfold around them!

Augie is the hero of the book in my opinion! I had no idea who it was until the end of the book! I loved the characters in One Breath Away and got easily wrapped up in their lives!

Great job Heather! Can't wait to read your next one! Hahahaha no pressure!!

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an ho
Book Sp(l)ot
Jun 18, 2012 Book Sp(l)ot rated it really liked it
It's a startlingly, suddenly cold spring day, the last day before Spring Break in Broke Branch, Iowa when the gunman walks into the school. The ancient, housing grades K through 12 is where nearly all of the two spent their school years but now it's facing an unknown threat.

In all but the one classroom - taken hostage, students just know that they're under a lockdown - and that it doesn't seem to be a drill, that something actually seems to be happening. Outside, the police have received a call
This was a wonderfully written novel, Heather Gudenkauf’s best to date in my opinion. Each chapter was written in the voice of the main characters, and I found I clicked with them straight away.

Holly, Augie and PJ’s mum, is in hospital after a dreadful fire at home, where she was burned pretty badly around her face and one arm. Holly’s mum, Maryls, has come to be with her in the hospital, and in the meantime, Augie and PJ have been sent to live with their grandfather at the farm Holly grew up on
Aug 20, 2012 kari rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
A real page turner, kept me guessing who was the intruder. I loved that it was told from various viewpoints, some in first person and some in third. Could have done without Holly, the mom's, viewpoint as I didn't feel her thoughts added one bit to the story. She was so against her parents and where she grew up, but it seems to be that she was just born trampy with little explanation for why she snuck out with boys/men from the age of thirteen. Even though she wants to blame her fahter, she says ...more
Dec 11, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is the second book that I have read by Heather Gudenkauf in just a few weeks. This author has managed to keep me coming back, which is no easy task.

Like Gudenkauf's other books, this story is set in small town Iowa and takes place over the course of several hours one tragic school day. The day before spring break begins, a lone gunman enters the consolidated and only school in the fictional place of Broken Branch Iowa, taking a classroom full of students and their teacher hostage and causin
Apr 13, 2012 Anne rated it it was amazing
I was really pleased to get an advance copy of One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf which will be published by MIRA in June 2012. I read her first novel The Weight of Silence about 18 months ago and really enjoyed it, so was looking forward to One Breath Away.

The story takes place over just a few hours, in a small American town called Broken Branch and is told by the main characters involved. A man has entered Broken Branch School and he has a gun, he has taken a class of kids hostage - nobody k
Sep 07, 2012 Dem rated it liked it
3.5 starts for Heather Gudenkauf's One Breath Away. I enjoyed this novel. The story revolves around an ordinary school day in March and the local school in Broken Branch, Iowa, where a gunman has entered the school and taken a classroom of children and their teacher hostage. Nobody knows who the gunman is or what he wants.

The story is told from five different perspectives and very cleverly written in the sense that the story is fast moving and your interest is held by short chapters with differ
Jul 02, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The story is based on an act of school violence but also deals with family relationships and life in a small town. It was as suspenseful as anything that I,have ever read and I was hooked from the first page; in fact, my intrigue started from the cover. I just discovers Gudenkauf's books a few weeks ago and so wish there were more of them! In the meantime I plan to revisit all of them, especially this one. I read it so fast that now I want to go back and really ta ...more
May 17, 2013 Kristine rated it really liked it
what i like most about this book is the story behind each character thou it had ended abruptly when the hostage taker was caught. but then, i was already touched by their stories.

the current situation was supposed to be intense but it was muted in some way. maybe because of the flashbacks of the character's past. i actually did not find it suspenseful or thrilling. but the emotions showed by each character suffice my requirement for a very good read!

Jul 01, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chick-lit
Heather Gudenkauf makes you turn the pages just love her writing the story starts when a lone gunman holds a teacher & students hostage in a classroom every parents nightmare it's in the middle of a snowstorm outside the residents of Broken Branch wait& watches to see what will happen loved the characters & plot was strong well written had me guessing right to the end she is fast becoming one of my favourite authors
Jun 26, 2012 Wendy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jun-12
What could be more terrifying than a gunman in a school!

Told from the viewpoints of the children, their families, teachers and the police, this story is a compelling account of the events that unfolded on this horrific day.

Heather Gudenkauf had me captivated from the start and it is easy to see why I love her novels.

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TeenReadClub: Februari: Broer - Heather Gudenkauf 4 9 Feb 26, 2015 05:24AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf 3 14 Jan 30, 2015 01:05AM  
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Heather Gudenkauf 8 125 Oct 13, 2013 01:53AM  
Little Falls High...: One Breath Away 2 24 Jan 18, 2013 01:15PM  
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Heather is the NYT and USA Today Bestselling author of THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE and MISSING PIECES.
More about Heather Gudenkauf...

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“We're always one breath away from something, living or dying, sometimes it just can't be helped.” 40 likes
“That's the wonderful thing about the human heart, there's room enough for all kinds of love.” 10 likes
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