One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf (♦♦♦♦½)

One gunman bursts into a school--in Broken Branch, Iowa-- prompting school’s officials to order a mandatory lockdown. This is the one school where all the kids from kindergarten to high school who live in the small Iowan town attend. As the hours go by, we get insights of events in their respective lives and within school from five points of views: Augie Baker, Will Thwaite (Augie’s grandfather), Mrs. Evelyn Oliver (the third grade teacher), Meg Barret (the only female police officer in Broken Branch) and Holly Baker (Augie’s mother and Will’s estranged daughter). With the little clues provided by the witnesses as they are released, police officers must figure out the identity of the gunman if they are to end the standoff without any loss of lives.

I really liked this book. It is engrossing to the point of keeping you awake at night in more ways than one. I found myself having nightmares about the fire and a gunman the night I started reading this book. In a no-non sense style, Heather Gudenkauf reveals the ways big and small that victims of violence and their relatives are impacted.

I confess that I first tried to read this book last month, but the plot was so grim, so utterly realistic and terribly close to some events unfolded not long ago, that I found myself putting this book aside in favor of the somewhat lighter The Night Circus. I don’t regret having read One Breath Away though; it is not a light reading, but it is an eye opener, a worthwhile one. For the four days I was reading this book I felt that both my mind and heart were going to explode with so much emotion bottled up. One Breath Away is as intense and scary as a bad dream.

I could guess the identity of the gunman way before it was revealed, but that didn’t diminish the impact of the ending.

One Breath Away is not to be missed! One of the best books I’ve read this year.