Book Review: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Number of pages: 400
First published: 2012 (July 6th)
I got this book: from Harlequin UK via Netgalley (ebook)
Genre: contemporary fiction

One Breath Away: What it is about

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.

One Breath Away: What I thought

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.


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

20 Responses to Book Review: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

  1. you are certainly a prolific reader judith! (if that is even logically/linguistically possible? what is the product of reading? it’s not a tomato plant)
    but, back to what I like, Iike reading an blog like yours. might even pick up a book title or author.
    I am a much slower reader, I’m content if I have read 20 books a year!
    but I see a lot of tv, so I’m not exactly bone idle.
    I would rather watch One breath away on tv. If it’s well made.
    this afternoon I am going to see the last remake of Wuthering Heights. has very good reviews.

    we met on the boekgrrls list, so you know me already.

    cu later, elm2

    • Leeswammes says:

      Nice to hear from you here, Elma! Yes, I read a lot. A lot! This years so far, about 100 books. But I don’t watch a lot of tv.

      I really like your suggestion that One Breath Away would make a good tv film! The snow, the desperate parents, it would be really good I think.

      I hope you enjoyed Wuthering Heights. At the risk of being stoned by my peers, I must say, I didn’t like the book. I think, in this case too, the film could be much better.

  2. Nadine Nys says:

    By reading the plot summary I would have expected a real page turner, here, Judith. What a pity it wasn’t.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Nadine, some people claim this was a page turner. Well, maybe in the sense that it was an easy read, but not so much for the thrilling aspects of it, of which there were very few.

  3. harvee says:

    It does sound as if it would have been good written as a thriller. I’ve been in the mood for thrillers lately.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Harvee, some people call it a page turned and a thriller, but I wasn’t all that thrilled. I don’t know – my opinion seems to be a bit different from the main stream with this book.

  4. I’m reviewing this one for a blog tour in a few days, and I agree with you about the pacing. I liked the way the author managed to get inside her characters’ heads, but I can’t help but feel that for an introspective take were to work, the book needs to be more literary in tone; otherwise a zippier, thriller pace is needed. I did enjoy her previous book more, though.

  5. I have this one as well Judith. Sorry it wasn’t a bit better for you.

  6. Mystica says:

    Sorry it did not work so well for you.

  7. I have read the previous two books by this author and enjoyed them (3 stars for one and 4 for the other, I think). I do want to read this book too – thanks for the review 🙂

  8. I have this one… ugh, hate to hear it moves slowly… cant wait to read! 🙂 Have a super day Judith!

  9. I loved Heather’s debut, Weight of Silence, enjoyed the 2nd so I want to try this one also. I tend to enjoy the style of multiple characters so I may enjoy it a little more than you.

  10. Pingback: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf –

  11. Pingback: Review: One Breath Away | Giraffe Days

  12. Pingback: One Breath Away- Heather Gudenkauf | Lucybird's Book Blog

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