Out Of Breath - Anna Snoekstra - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Have you ever dreamed of going off the grid? Escaping somewhere beautiful, with a bunch of likeminded people, and working on yourself away from the stresses and pressures of everyday life? Anna Snoekstra’s new novel Out Of Breath is about what happens when that dream turns into a nightmare. The wonderful team at Harlequin Australia/Harper Collins were kind enough to send me a copy for review.

What is Jo Ainsley running from? At first, it was a childhood trauma that she buried in the darkest recesses of her mind. Then, it was an art school failure in London and a toxic relationship with a much older man. She bolted all the way to Sydney, where she thought she could stop running for good if she settled down with Eric (she was even dreading her government-mandated 88 days working in a remote area for her visa), but then that went pear-shaped, too.

So, she finds herself working her fingers to the bone on a small mango farm in the northwest corner of Western Australia, when Gabe crosses her path. The charismatic American tells her he lives off-the-grid in a community that sounds like heaven. Can Jo finally stop running? Has she found somewhere she belongs?

On every other page of Out Of Breath, I wanted to shake Jo’s shoulders and shout “You’re in a CULT! Call your Dad!” (Murderinos know what I mean). It made for a very compelling and spooky read – not that it has any supernatural elements, remote Australia is scary and haunting enough, thank you very much. The characters are withholding, which is maddening but damn, it makes for a page-turner.

The ending is perhaps a little neat, with all the loose ends tied up in a perfect bow, but I thought Snoekstra did a great job of bringing it all together. Even if psychological thrillers aren’t your thing, you’ll enjoy the rich descriptions of the outback setting, freediving, and the pearl trade throughout Out Of Breath.