The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue

Published: June 27, 2023


Pages: 293

Genre: LGBTQ+ Literary Fiction

KKECReads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received a copy of this book for free, and I leave my review voluntarily.

Caroline O’Donoghue is a New York Times bestselling author and podcaster. Formerly a journalist, Caroline has written for The Times, The Guardian, and most of the Irish press. Her award-winning podcast, Sentimental Garbage covers “the culture we love that society can sometimes make us feel ashamed of” and tops the podcast charts internationally. Caroline lives in London with her partner and her dog.

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.

“You love the whole person.”

Rachel meets James while working at a small bookshop in their hometown. They build a random and, at times, an unhealthy friendship that spans their young adult lives. Together they go through finding partners, the drama that can sometimes have, and having secrets that can often be devastating.

This read like a memoir, which was creative. I enjoyed how the story was told and how it led from adolescence to adulthood.

Rachel was remarkably ordinary. She came from a middle-class family, went to university, and was doing things as she was supposed to. James was vibrant and charismatic and destined for more.

Together they grew up. They laughed, cried, and discovered who they were. This was a life story and how sometimes things we can’t control. There were some very realistic themes covered, and the story had a genuine vibe that would resonate with readers of all ages.

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