One Breath Away - Heather Gudenkauf

Released June 2012

Heather Gudenkauf
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

One Breath Away... That's how I felt reading this book. I found myself holding my breath as the armed gunman, the children, the teachers, the police officer, and the parents waiting nearby waited to see what would happen.

In a small town, a gunman walks into a school and takes a classroom hostage while the townspeople and police wait in fear not knowing who he is or what he wants. Officer Meg Barrett must follow the rules despite her instincts as a mother to rush in and save the children. A grandfather waits outside not knowing if his estranged daughter's children are okay - their mother lying miles away in a hospital room recovering from a serious accident. Inside, students don't know if it's safe to leave or if the gunman, maybe even more than one shooter, are lurking outside their classroom doors.

One Breath Away starts with one simple phone call from a frightened teen to her mother in that hospital bed and then progresses to the events happening both inside and outside the school. Readers learn only as police do what the gunman wants, who is hurt, and how the students and parents are coping not knowing what's going on yards away.

A few years ago, there was a school shooting in a nearby town. The gunman wanted his girlfriend to pay for breaking up with him and went to the school to find her. Thankfully, there were no children in the school that day, but the shock and uncertainty as police went on the manhunt to find him still puts shivers up my spine. While no children were hurt, people did lose their life that day. One Breath Away brought me back to that, the events of Columbine, and so many other horrific school shootings. It's the type of story that often crosses my mind when I'm parked outside my kids' high school and I watch students open the locked doors to anyone who knocks...

Everything in Heather Gudenkauf's novel plays out in a realistic manner. Minutes pass as the story passes between Meg, the mother far away in a hospital bed, the teenage girl who so frantically wants to save her brother who is in the class that's being held hostage, the school teacher who's trying to keep her students safe, and the grandfather who doesn't want to lose another family member. It's a powerful read. It's one that keeps you on the edge of your seat.


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