Discussion Guide for One Breath Away

Use this discussion guide at your next book club meeting as a starter for conversation.

If Wishes Were Horses


One school. One gunman. Your child.

Get caught in heart-stopping suspense. In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man armed with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the small town of Broken Branch watches…and waits.

Connect with vivid characters. 

While the gunman’s hostages huddle in fear, all of Broken Branch lies equally trapped. From Officer Meg Barrett, responsible for the students’ safety, to 13-year-old Augie Baker, willing to risk her life to save her little brother, these unforgettable, realistic characters come to life on the page.

Plunge into gripping drama. 

As tension mounts and thetown’s hidden fears and grudges emerge, you’ll explore the unspoken events that shape a community, the ties between parents and children, and how all we hold dear can change in a single breath.



  1. One Breath Way is set in a sudden snow storm.  What role does the weather play in the story, both literally and metaphorically?
  2. Stuart asks “What kind of town is this? Doesn’t anyone know who their father is?” What role do fathers play in One Breath Way?  Discuss the different relationships between fathers and children.
  3. Discuss the influence of the small town setting on the characters.
  4. One Breath Way is told from multiple point of views. W hat do we learn about the characters from the perspective of their families? What do we learn about Holly from her father?  About Augie from her grandfather?  About Mrs. Oliver from Cal?
  5. The gunman in the story poses a physical threat to the children in Broken Branch and several characters are determined to protect the children—Mrs. Oliver, Meg, Augie.  In what other ways do characters try to protect each other? How do they succeed? How do they fail?
  6. On the day the gunman arrives in the school, Will is awaiting the birth of the calves.   How are the seasons and the cyclical nature of life evoked in this novel?


Meet author Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is the acclaimed author of the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling novels, The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. A mom and a teacher as well as a writer, Heather lives in Iowa with her husband and three children. Her latest novel, One Breath Away, is published by MIRA Books. Visit Heather’s website at www.HeatherGudenkauf.com.