The Rachel Incident: A novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

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; 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 O'Donoghue pulls off a brilliant coming-of-age novel that balances silly with splendid. Despite the darker subject matter, this is warm, loving, wry, and forgiving — a complex, thoughtful story. —Whitney, Snail Readers Circle


A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK • A brilliantly funny novel about friends, lovers, Ireland in chaos, and a young woman desperately trying to manage all three

"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.

About the Author

CAROLINE O'DONOGHUE is the New York Times best-selling author of All Our Hidden Gifts, her YA debut fantasy, which has been published in more than twenty territories around the world. She has written for The Times and The Guardian, and is the host of an award-winning podcast, Sentimental Garbage. She was born in Ireland and lives in London. The Rachel Incident is her first adult novel to be published in the U.S.

Praise For…

A Vogue "Best and Most-Anticipated" Book of the Year 

"Delightful...This is a sneakily philosophical book about growing up that offers its insights with charming, effervescent ease....O’Donoghue is a unique and exciting talent, allowing her characters to puncture their solipsistic preoccupations with humor and self awareness....I galloped through this book, enchanted by its characters and its full-hearted vision of friendship. This is a book full of love, and it is extremely easy to love reading it." 
—Chloe Schama, Vogue

"If you’ve ever had a literary internship that didn’t really pay you; if you’ve ever contemplated writing a screenplay with a friend; 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 avoided going home or run out of things to say to your parents; if you’ve ever built your life and your personality around a friend; 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

“Caroline O’Donoghue, where have you been all my life? The Rachel Incident is a transportive joy, a superhighway to young friendship. Big-hearted, witty and expertly crafted — I want to live inside this book.”
—Sloane Crosley, New York Times bestselling author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake and Cult Classic

"Caroline O'Donoghue shines a laser beam on young adulthood, particularly the crazy intensity of those messy, beautiful friendships forged in the fires of romantic crisis. The Rachel Incident made me nostalgic for my early twenties. But even more than that, it made me wish I could go back and hug the person I was back then and tell her she'll be okay."
—Lauren Fox, New York Times best-selling author of Send For Me

"By turns hilarious and heartfelt, breezy and bittersweet, The Rachel Incident is a full-throated, big-hearted romp through early adulthood.”
—Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Orphan Train

"When narrator Rachel, a college student in County Cork, becomes friends and quickly roommates with her new bookshop-coworker James, it's as if no one else exists. The in-jokes, cozy nights huddled together in their moldy, freezing cottage apartment, and epic nights out—it's the early-twentysomething friendship of dreams....Over the course of a year, as the pair dedicates themselves to moving to London and getting "real" jobs, the stand-still economy and each friend's love affair with an unavailable man (Rachel's with head-in-the-clouds Carey and James' with married, closeted professor Fred) complicate their idyll and make it impossible to save money or their optimism....O'Donoghue gives readers a quick-reading slow build that rests comfortably on strong characters, Rachel's conversational narration, and a crisp capture of the 2010s, from recession through Ireland's legalization of abortion and all the many shifts, mini to tectonic, therein. 
Booklist, starred review

“A college student gets caught in the middle of a friend’s romance in this delightful Irish novel…. This deliciously complex set of entanglements lays the groundwork for the novel… and bring to mind the gossipy 19th-century novels Dr. Byrne might teach in class. But its true joys lie in the tremendously witty characters and their relationships: The real love story of this novel is not between James and Dr. Byrne, or Rachel and her own paramour, but between Rachel and James, whose codependent glee in each other’s company will remind many readers of their own college friendships, especially those between women and queer men…. Sensational.”
Kirkus, starred review

"Two 20-something roommates become enmeshed with an older married couple in this smart and colorful outing from O’Donoghue....In addition to the interpersonal drama, O’Donoghue pulls no punches in her depiction of the abortion crisis in Ireland during the period, showing how women either traveled abroad or resorted to illegal and potentially dangerous methods to terminate pregnancies. Key to it all is O’Donoghue’s spot-on portrayal of Rachel’s youthful yearning....In O’Donoghue’s world, there’s plenty to fall in love with."
Publishers Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593535707
ISBN-10: 0593535707
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: June 27th, 2023
Pages: 304
Language: English