BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review & Excerpt of One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

Publisher: Mira
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Buying Links: Amazon     The Book Depository

Book Blurb (from goodreads):

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 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.

"No charge," he says, shaking his head. "I can't charge these folks for coffee and pie when this could very well be the worst day of their lives."
"Thanks, Lonnie," I say. "That's very kind." He shrugs the compliment off, limps away, his heaviness causing a hitch in his step, and returns to filling coffee cups and making people smile. Once again I am reminded why I love Broken Branch and why I chose to remain here to work and raise Maria. I only hope we can get each and every one of those students and staff sitting at the school out safely.  Otherwise, potentially, ninety percent of Broken Branch's youth could be erased in one fell swoop. Despite the warmth of the cafe and the hot coffee in m y hand, I shiver at the thought. If that happened, Broken Branch will become a ghost town, would die and wither away. We can't let that happen. I can't let that happen. Maria needs to come home, to her town, her school, her friends. To me.
Reviewed By: Bea

Bea's Thoughts:

I LOVED Gudenkauf's "These Things Hidden"; I even gave it 5 stars and I'm usually stingy with stars, so when I was offered the chance to review this book I eagerly said "yes". This one however is not, for me, a 5 star book, but a 3 star. I enjoyed it, I'll probably re-read it, but it didn't wow me.

"One Breath Away" was a fairly quick read, I breezed through it in a few hours, despite needing to put it down for work, sleep and other necessities. The flip side of that is that I felt it lacked some depth, that much of what we see and are told was on the surface only. I still don't adequately understand Holly's reactions to her father, her hometown, etc. Since that's a major theme of the book and drives much of the action, I felt lost at times. It seemed like a plot device without anything to back it up. Gudenkauf once again uses multiple POV's so there's a lot of head hopping. That offers us different perspectives, adding to the whole, but also means we don't get as deep into characters heads or emotional lives as we might with fewer POV's. I also found that at first, the voices were not distinctive enough; I'd sometimes have to double check the chapter heading to see who was talking. That improved as the story went on, or maybe I adjusted, and by the end I had no trouble distinguishing voice.

Family ties are a major theme in the story and the technique of multiple POV's helps to play that up. Three of the characters are related: Will, his adult daughter Holly, and her daughter Augie, and we get to see their thoughts and feelings about families, both their own and other people's. The examination of family ties could be deeper but it reverberates throughout the story and drives much of the action. Again, the depth was often lacking. The characters though are engaging and mostly likable; I liked Will and understood him more than I did his daughter Holly. Meg was also quite relatable and likable and Mrs. Oliver was fascinating, I know teachers like her. Holly's children Augie and PJ were likable but didn't always feel real, especially Augie. She was too independent, too focused on her brother PJ, so willing to hate her grandfather for no good reason. Maybe I don't spend enough time with children her age, but she didn't feel real to me.

I think my disappointment in this book stems from how much I loved her previous book, and the high expectations that I had for this one. The multiple POV's worked for me last time but in this one, they are sometimes distracting and don't add enough to the story. That said, they do contribute to the story but, not sufficiently, IMO.

So, I didn't love the book, but I enjoyed parts of it, especially the mystery parts. It was actually the family parts that held my interest the least. If you're a Gudenkauf fan, give this one a try. It may appeal to you more than it did to me.

I received a paper ARC for review as part of a blog tour.


Scavenger Hunt Excerpt

All he has to do is stare at the person and they shut up. Even Noah Plum.

To follow the tour and scavenger hunt, click here for the schedule.


Heather will holding a live chat on the BookTrib site on Thursday July 26th at 3PM EST. It's a chance to ask your questions and to win a copy of the book. Click on the image for more information.


  1. Dang...i liked the sound of this one. Sorry it didn't live up to your expectations :)

    1. It was disappointing, but I do think that maybe my expectations were too high, based in how much I loved the first one. If you read it, I'll be interested in your thoughts on it.


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