Friday, February 07, 2014

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

I haven't updated this space for a long while now. There are not many reasons or excuses for that except for lethargy or laziness. Some posts die in my head while in formation stage itself and a few die after I have jotted ('typed' would be the right term here) down a few lines or even words. And, as I'm thinking about it now I feel that writing about life when it is happening, it is better to write about something with the benefit of hindsight.

But, this post isn't about any happening or an event in my life, it is just about a book that I recently read (I may be wrong as 'reading' also can be a happening or an event), One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf. It is a book for anyone who loves fast paced books with some depth and multi-dimensional characters, and also for those interested in creative writing as such. It shows you how to structure a narrative interestingly by revealing a mystery on every page, peeling off a layer from the characters to show the motive behind their action.

An unidentified assailant with a gun enters a school in a fictitious small town called Broken Branch, Iowa State, USA and makes a classroom full of third graders hostage along with their teacher. The story goes on to show how the school, police, parents and the town in general reacts to the situation. The tale is weaved from the perspective of five characters directly effected by the incident; Holly, a burn victim recuperating in a hospital in Arizona. Her two children Augie and P. J are under the care of her father and are the students of the ill-fated school. Augie, a teenager, who had to shift school mid-term because of her mother's accident. Mrs. Oliver, the teacher in the class that is taken hostage. Meg, a single mother and police officer in Broken Branch, whose child Maria is the student of the same school, but, has taken a day off before the spring vacation to spend some time with her dad Tim. And, finally Will, a farmer and the grandfather of Augie and P. J.

As this intricate and intense story moves forward from character to character and from first person to third person format we get to see how interconnected small communities are and an untoward incident effects every single person in the locality.

For me, the vividly etched mind-scape of Mrs. Oliver and teenager Augie worked wonderfully as it showed how two persons of different ages and different mentality act similarly in a given situation. And, I'm sure Mrs. Oliver will remind you of your best loved teachers.

A line from this book that will stay with me is: “the easiest way to save face is to keep the lower half shut”.

PS. With this I shun the romantic notion that you need to smell the paper to enjoy a book. For me e-books are convenient to handle physically as I don't have to hold them and turn the pages. I doubt if I'd have finished reading this book it was in physical form.

1 comment:

nadira said...

Makes me want to read the book too. And yes, I feel shame-faced now thinking about how attached I am to the smell of books and to the sensation of handling thm and turning the pages. I did see in the video Joshua posted , how laborious it was for you to turn a page. We take a lot of things, for granted for sure.