One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BRILLIANT - I can’t praise this author highly enough, in just 3 novels she has progressed from good to great to sensational.
In this her latest novel she creates a story around just one snowy day in Iowa, where a gunman has entered the schoolhouse and is holding a class of pupils and their teacher hostage for reasons unknown to them and to us. The whole school is in lockdown and as events unfold and tension mounts we are drawn into the lives of every person whom this dreadful happening touches. Heather has taken an unimaginably appalling situation and handled it sensitively and with compassion, yet what emerges is a piquant peek into the lives of some real and diverse characters, a real human interest tale.
The story is skilfully woven like a length of the finest fabric - the hostage situation is the warp whilst the lives of the characters like the weft are drawn in and out of the material cleverly and subtly so all the components become a whole.
We meet PJ and his sister Augie, their lives already touched with more tragedy than 2 youngsters
should have to cope with, their Mum Holly separated from her husband, lies many miles away in hospital battling to recover from injuries she sustained in a fire. (The description of how easily an everyday moment turned to tragedy made my blood literally run cold)
Her almost estranged parents have stepped in to care for her children and her father Will a brusque cattle farmer tries his best to protect his only daughter whilst unknown to her both her children are deeply involved in the hostage situation.
Local police officer Meg tries her hardest to be professional and control the situation despite her own fears and lack of experience, back up promised yet thwarted by the increasingly bad weather.
Inside the building elderly teacher Mrs Oliver becomes an unlikely hero and despite being in the wrong place at very much the wrong time her bravery is real and the thoughts running through her mind provide a few touches of real humour in a bleak situation.
Heather Gudenkauf is rapidly becoming a real rival to the likes of Diane Chamberlain and Jodi Picoult.
Even though this story is written in the voices of many different characters, she nimbly skips from one voice to another without once breaking the liquid flow of the story. Almost every chapter leaves the reader in a cliff hanger situation thinking “Nooooo you can’t leave me here“ it’s a cinch to follow, a superbly crafted, deeply moving page turner that I loved every word of from start to finish.
Many thanks to Netgalley, Harlequin and Heather Gudenkauf for allowing me the privilege of this advance review ebook and giving me such a pleasurable read.