The Next Breath
It’s been over ten years since Robin Bricker has acted in a play alongside her college classmates. Even though acting is a big part of what she does now, especially in her role on a reality show, this particular play, The Next Breath, carries history with it – the kind that Robin is not sure she is ready to share with her boyfriend Nick. To make matters worse, Robin keeps having dreams that relate to death. After witnessing a car accident that involves Nick, Robin can’t bear the thought of losing him. She decides that it is time to explain how the play is connected with her old boyfriend Jed. The problem is that while Robin is in love with Nick, she is still carrying a torch for Jed. But to further her relationship with Nick, Robin will have to get over major emotional hurdles of her past. Osterkamp’s latest novel mixes romance with the realities of life and death.
Rising author Laurel Osterkamp has produced another episode in the continuing saga of Robin Bricker. Osterkamp’s first person narrative is designed as a chapter book — like all of the Robin Bricker books (The Holdout and American Angst). Although it fits snuggly between the aforementioned books, The Next Breath can equally stand alone. A key feature of Osterkamp’s stand-alone method is by incorporating a handful of literary tools. For example, in order for readers to grasp the depth of Robin Bricker’s character, Osterkamp alternates between past (flashbacks) and present events in Robin’s life. Undoubtedly, Robin has a closet full of unresolved conflict. Yet she is continually challenged to face her problems in one form or other. While much of what is going (or has gone) on in Robin’s life is a bit traumatic, Osterkamp lightens her narrative by including the mysterious Flashdance Girl who Robin silently competes with during her morning runs. Over time, Robin does face her situations, which truly earmarks her as a dynamic character.
While Robin is the center of attention in Osterkamp’s novel, Osterkamp very meticulously surrounds her protagonist with a flurry of characters who, in their own right, also don’t have the answers to life. These characters purposefully pit Robin against her problems, much of which deals with the concept of permanence – life and death issues, especially with chronic illness. This type of character development builds tension within the plot and keeps readers on edge in the hope that Robin will make wise decisions. Coupled with the tension is Osterkamp’s clever way to keep her story fresh and fluid by breaking her narrative up with data entries.
Osterkamp’s novel is not your typical (chick-flick) romance. Her approach runs much deeper than all the lovey-dovey fluff. For readers looking for a plot that has thought provoking parallels to everyday life, The Next Breath is the next favorite read.
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