Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Cushla lives a quiet life with her mother in a small town near Belfast. By day she teaches at a parochial school; at night she fills in at her family's pub. There she meets Michael Agnew, a barrister who's made a name for himself defending IRA members. Against her better judgmen—Michael is not only Protestant but older, and married—Cushla lets herself get drawn in by him and his sophisticated world, and an affair ignites. Then the father of a student is savagely beaten, setting in motion a chain reaction that will threaten everything, and everyone, Cushla most wants to protect.
Brilliant, beautiful, heartbreaking ... Kennedy deftly reveals how violence in a conflict zone can more accurately be described as intertwined with and inseparable from daily life ... In Trespasses, as in life, humor provides an antidote to the darkest times ... Kennedy gives us children who are funny and surprising and uplifting in exactly the ways real children are, with none of the treacle that sometimes sneaks into fictional depictions of young people ... Kennedy writes beautifully about love ... As the novel progresses, it picks up a propulsive energy, the kind that compels you to keep reading straight through to the end. A rising sense of tension throughout comes to a shocking head. I am not a crier, but by the final pages of Trespasses, I was in tears. It’s a testament to Kennedy’s talents that we come to love and care so much about her characters.
Kennedy describes their upper-middle-class bohemian way of life in perfect detail, the delicious, casually presented meals, the vintage doodads that ornament the kitchen, the polite, but condescending manner of most of them toward Cushla ... This is the reality of the Troubles, of beatings, revenge killings, executions, bombed out buildings ... That, too, Kennedy conjures in all its pervasive horror and fear ... This is a deeply evocative novel in the particularity of social description and ambience, in its atmosphere of menace, and in the urgency of the emotions portrayed — sexual passion, guilt, shame, fear, hatred and compassion. Kennedy is masterly in conveying the nature of Cushla's predicament ... Moving, hard-hitting.
In Trespasses, Kennedy has...room to flesh out her characters and dramatize their predicaments. She does so masterfully, convincing her reader of all that unfolds ... The book’s gritty backdrop is brilliantly depicted ... Through her thoughts, her deeds and her dialogue, Cushla emerges as a flawed, bruised but ultimately defiant heroine. Whether we find her happy yet unfulfilled with her lover, or at her lowest ebb with her mother...she is someone we root for every step of the way ... Kennedy has written a captivating first novel that manages to be beautiful and devastating in equal measure.