Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Rachel Incident

The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue
6/27/23; 304 pages
Knopf Doubleday

The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue is a highly recommended coming-of-age novel about friendship and love set in Cork, Ireland.

The novel opens up in 2022 with Rachel pregnant and then quickly jumps back in time to 2009 when college student Rachel Murray first met James Devlin. Rachel and James both work at a bookstore and it is love and the start of an intense friendship at first sight. The two soon become roommates and as they experience the nightlife around Cork while the threat of a financial crisis emerges. When Rachel admits her crush on her married professor Dr. Fred Byrne, the two conspire to set up a reading of his book at the bookstore. Instead of Rachel trying to flirt with the professor, the event results in the unexpected entanglement of James and Dr. Byrne. This relationship results in complications between Rachel and James with the professor and his wife. Adding to the turmoil is Rachel's boyfriend, James Carey.

This is an in-depth character study, with a focus on young adult friendships continuing into adulthood. Neither Rachel nor James are particularly lovable characters. They can be humorous, engaging, and dramatic. They are both in the midst of growing into becoming the adults they will become while trying to navigate their current drinking and late night parties with living expenses and planning for some sort of future career. Really, this is about mistakes you make when you are young and revisiting them as an adult.

The first half of the narrative essentially captures the delayed adulthood of these characters, as Rachel looks back on these years. The development of the plot starts out rather slow and doesn't pick up until later in the novel. That is also when the characters begin to display more depth. 3.5 rounded up

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday via NetGalley.

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