Louise Kennedy's superb debut explores terrain already well-covered in works of fiction and non-fiction over the past several decades. But Trespasses is one of the best novels I’ve read about daily life in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The story is built around the relationship of a Catholic schoolteacher, Cushla--who works part-time as bartender in the family pub now run by her brother, and also tends to a mother in the grip of alcoholism—and an older, married Protestant barrister with mostly progressive sensibilities. Kennedy conveys how, in the lives of everyday people in Belfast and its environs, the extraordinary becomes ordinary during times of religious and sectarian strife. British soldiers routinely stop Catholic motorists for no reason, neighbors check under their car hoods every morning for bombs, and children in Cushla’s class exhibit the scars of violence, poverty, and social humiliation. This is a powerful and beautifully constructed novel that brings fresh perspective to an old landscape.