Numerous blurbs on the back of Heather Gudenkauf’s latest, One Breath Away, describe Gudenkauf as the next Jodi Picoult. Picoult has taken the idea of multiple narrators and practically created an entirely new writing style. The payoff is immensely satisfying when it’s done correctly, as it creates a truly completed puzzle. While not as successful as her debut novel, The Weight of Silence, Gudenkauf has written a worthwhile and powerful read in One Breath Away.
Gudenkauf takes every parent’s worst nightmare, an intruder in his/her child’s school, and creates a riveting narrative (so, ironically, did Picoult in Nineteen Minutes). Each narrator adds a slice of the pie to the horrible hours when the incident took place. Augie, sent to live with her grandfather after her mother’s accident; Will, Augie’s grandfather; Holly, Augie’s mother; Meg, a police officer at the school whose daughter is thankfully not there that day; and Mrs. Oliver, the third-grade teacher whose classroom the intruder is holed up in.
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