The Rachel Incident

A novel

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Pub Date 27 Jun 2023 | Archive Date 03 Aug 2023

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A TIME, NPR, and LitHub Best Book of the Year A USA TODAY BESTSELLER A brilliantly funny novel about friends, lovers, Ireland in chaos, and a young woman desperately trying to manage all three

“O'Donoghue deepens the familiar coming-of-age premise with riveting moral complications." —People

"If you’ve ever been unsure what to do with your degree in English; if you’ve ever wondered when the rug-buying part of your life will start...if you’ve ever loved the wrong person, or the right person at the wrong time…In short, if you’ve ever been young, you will love The Rachel Incident like I did.” —Gabrielle Zevin, New York Times best-selling author of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Rachel is a student working at a bookstore when she meets James, and it’s love at first sight. Effervescent and insistently heterosexual, James soon invites Rachel to be his roommate and the two begin a friendship that changes the course of both their lives forever.  Together, they run riot through the streets of Cork city, trying to maintain a bohemian existence while the threat of the financial crash looms before them.

When Rachel falls in love with her married professor, Dr. Fred Byrne, James helps her devise a reading at their local bookstore, with the goal that she might seduce him afterwards. But Fred has other desires. So begins a series of secrets and compromises that intertwine the fates of James, Rachel, Fred, and Fred’s glamorous, well-connected, bourgeois wife. Aching with unrequited love, shot through with delicious, sparkling humor, The Rachel Incident is a triumph.
A TIME, NPR, and LitHub Best Book of the Year A USA TODAY BESTSELLER A brilliantly funny novel about friends, lovers, Ireland in chaos, and a young woman desperately trying to manage all three


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ISBN 9780593535707
PRICE $28.00 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

The Rachel Incident
A novel
by Caroline O'Donoghue

Rachel is a student working at a bookstore when she meets James, They started out as co-workers in a bookshop. Then the fun began when they became roommates. I loved how close they were, shared everything TMI, and the laughs were so good. I was actually laughing out loud. Love the book.

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I simply don't have enough good things to say about this. Contemporary fiction at its absolute best with phrasing that I remember long after reading it. Will be recommending this to anyone I can and screaming about it from the rooftops, if I'm honest!

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WOW. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, as I have a few of this author's YA fiction already sitting on my shelf. Her transition to adult fiction was absolutely seamless—Rachel was such a messy and vibrant protagonist, and the small cast that rotated around her were each a perfect fit to give life to her story. I lived in turns for Rachel's pettiness and heart, and I liked that we got to see snippets of her 'present day' throughout the story; it gave a sense of resolution without feeling trite.

I took my sweet time reading, but I've already recommended The Rachel Incident to a handful of close friends. I think this title would be an excellent fit for fans of Kyle Lucia Wu (Win Me Something) or Katie Kitamura (Intimacies). I absolutely cannot wait for pub day!

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At this point, Caroline O'Donoghue has me in a chokehold and can write whatever she wants, and I'll likely love it. I adored her YA series "The Gifts" with her plucky protagonist, Maeve, and was eager to enjoy one of her adult offerings. "The Rachel Incident" follows the titular young woman, who is broke and creative and aimless and self-involved, as many people in their early 20s are, and her friendship with James, a closeted bookseller. Specifically, it's about loyalty - about cheating, about love affairs, about keeping quiet for a friend, about friendships with older people, and about staying or going when the world is trying to tear you apart, It is also about abortion, and a woman's right to choose. These heady topics are balanced easily in the air; the first few chapters I wondered how on earth this book would be more substantial than a well-made souffle, so frothy and silly were Rachel and James. And they weren't terribly likeable, either - their actions were obviously setting them up to hurt people. But I needn't have worried - O'Donoghue pulled off a brilliant coming-of-age novel that balances silly with splendid, This novel is particularly meaningful to me now that the United States has taken a hammer to reproductive rights. Irish women's fight for abortion is more timely than ever. Despite the darker subject matter, "The Rachel Incident" is warm, loving, wry, and forgiving - a complex, thoughtful story.

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<i> Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf for providing me an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review!</i>

<b>The Rachel Incident</b> is a coming of age story of a Millennial girl in Cork, at the peak of the financial crises. It is also a love story, a journey of self discovery and acceptance and a tale of the lack of reproductive healthcare in Ireland.

I absolutely adored this book! It was so easy to relate with the characters that parts of the story just felt like a trip down memory lane. Being a Millennial myself, who was also trying to find her place in the world at the described timeline, probably enhanced my understanding of some of the struggles. However, Caroline O’Donoghue perfectly describes the insecurities, struggles, feelings, passions and the absolute mess of entering the adult age, which I believe are pretty much the same for all generations.

The writing is beautiful and I particularly liked the fact the story is told from the present time. This allow us not only to experience what the characters were feeling at the time, but also see it through adult eyes and understand the different perspectives.

This book is perfect for Sally Rooney fans, with the advantage of including likable and a lot less pretentious characters. <b>The Rachel Incident</b> will be published in July and I couldn’t recommend it enough!

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Caroline O'Donoghue's The Rachel Incident is a hilarious and heartfelt novel that captures the essence of being young and in love in a world full of chaos. Rachel, the protagonist, is a relatable character who navigates her way through life and love with a sense of humor and a determination to make the most of every situation. Her relationship with James is a highlight of the novel, as they embark on a journey of self-discovery and adventure.

However, things take a complicated turn when Rachel falls in love with her married professor, Dr. Fred Byrne, and James helps her devise a plan to seduce him. The resulting secrets and compromises that follow intertwine the fates of all the characters in unexpected ways, leading to a climax that is both heart-wrenching and satisfying.

O'Donoghue's writing is witty, poignant, and engaging, and she skillfully captures the atmosphere of Cork city in all its bohemian glory. The Rachel Incident is a novel that will make readers laugh out loud, while also tugging at their heartstrings. It is a triumph of storytelling and a must-read for anyone who has ever been young and in love.

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