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

Abortion, miscarriage, infidelity.

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.

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“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

“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

“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

Taste the very first page

It was never my plan to write about any of this. I know journalists say that all the time, but for me, it’s true. Almost all of us are sitting on some big life experience that we’re hoping to turn into a book one day. I swear to God, that was never my intention. The process of book-making was demystified for me at the age of twenty-one, and I’ve had no instinct to be in any way involved with them since.