It’s Ireland in 2010, and Rachel Murray is a college student living in a run-down apartment with her cheeky—and closeted—friend James. They both have dreams of a better life, one outside the city of Cork. Rachel spends her days in class, enduring a schoolgirl crush on her professor Fred; but he has his eye on someone else—Rachel’s roommate. While James and Fred’s affair takes off, Rachel cycles through bad boyfriends, and Ireland’s economy plummets in the background. Fast forward to modern-day London, where Rachel is working as a journalist, covering abortion access in her home country. She’s married, pregnant, and toiling away on a story when she learns that Fred is in a coma. Caroline O’Donoghue’s second novel flips between the past and present as Rachel is catapulted back in time to her college flat. The Rachel Incident encompasses what it means to be a very specific age during a very specific era in a very specific place. It’s a coming of age story, but also ultimately a love story—revealed in starkly funny and heartbreaking turns. —Meg Zukin
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