cover image Trespasses


Louise Kennedy. Riverhead, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-5935-4089-3

Kennedy (The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac) delivers an engaging if sometimes clunky story of a forbidden affair between a Catholic and a Protestant during the Troubles. In the mid-1970s, Cushla Lavery, a 24-year-old Catholic teacher, falls in love with Michael Agnew, an older married Protestant barrister who has a reputation for defending the rights of the Catholics. Their clandestine meetings start once Michael asks Cushla to give him and his friends Irish lessons, and soon they’re spending nights together. Kennedy does a marvelous job at portraying Cushla’s immense guilt and passion sparked by the affair, which offers a much-needed distraction for her from the bombings and murders claimed by the IRA and the UDA. While the romance is at the center of the story, Cushla’s friendship with one of her primary school students whose father is almost killed during a sectarian attack and her troubled relationship with her alcoholic mother add substance. The straightforward prose style can be wearing in its endless accrual of detail, but Kennedy does a lovely job at capturing Cushla’s mixed feelings and her determination to live her life during wartime. A solid character portrait emerges from the turbulent backdrop. Agent: Eleanor Birne, PEW Literary. (Nov.)