JudithAnn's Reviews > One Breath Away

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
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's review
Jul 08, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2012

A man enters a school with a gun and the school goes into lockdown: all teachers lock their classroom doors and hide with their pupils in a corner. Two of those pupils are Augie, 13 year old, and her small brother, P. J. They are only at the school temporarily, staying at their grandfather’s while their mother Holly is recovering from severe burns after a fire at home.

The school is in a small town where everyone knows each other and soon rumours start about the identity of the gunman. Is it one of the children’s father? Is it the ex-husband of female police officer Meg?

The police are slow taking action as they don’t know what the situation is they are dealing with (maybe more than one gunman, even). Also, they can’t get back-up because the roads are snowed under.

When she gets the chance, Augie refuses to escape as long as her brother is still in the school. Meg wants to get in to sort out the gunman but her boss won’t let her. Will, Augie’s grandfather, is at the ready with his gun to take action himself. He wants to get his grandchildren safely back to their mother in hospital.

I expected this to be a kind of thriller, but it wasn’t. It was more an exploration into the effect on the people involved of a gunman entering a school and kidnapping a group of children.

The book was told by several of these people: the grandfather, the mother in a far-away hospital, Augie, a teacher, and the police woman. They all had different considerations and priorities. It was intriguing to see how these people all had different view points.

I did find the story slow going, though. The police didn’t dare to take action for a very long time, which I found maddening. There wasn’t a great deal of tension in the book because not until way into the book, it becomes clear what the gunman is planning, and what his identity is.

The story seemed to spread a little too thin, with not enough happening and some rather curious coincidences.

The writing was very fluent and made this book a pleasant read. Only I did think that the story shifted to the different narrators a little too often (i.e., the chapters were sometimes a little short).

A pleasant, easy going read, but not as exciting as I had expected.
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