Twisted by Lola Smirnova

Short, but not sweet, Twisted by Lola Smirnova takes us into the world of human trafficking. Whether the author meant to take us along on this journey is a moot point as we find ourselves in Luxembourg City where three sisters work as “entertainers” in a local Cabaret, encouraging the purchase of cheap drinks for expensive prices in exchange for their favors. The more the customer spends, the bigger the favor. After a six month stint, they bring the money home to help support their family since poverty, brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union, is a way of life in 1990s Ukraine where industries have shut down leaving even college graduates starving. Their parents look the other way at their “waitress” daughters with their pockets full of cash. After all, what mother or father will admit that their daughter is a whore?

While the reader might argue that prostitution is a choice, I would counter that the realities of poverty push young girls (and boys) to do things they might not ordinarily consider. Whether by coercion or on purpose, the cycle of abuse found is a form of situational slavery. And if you are an American reader, don’t be so smug – the same sorts of activities occur in the United States. In fact, the US is the number one location for Human Traffickng. So, as you read this book, try not to be judgmental, but keep an open mind to the realities of prostitution and its prevalence in modern society.

In the Eastern European Sex Trade, human flesh, controlled by drugs or violence, is sold to a willing audience who like to watch, touch, or satisfy their urges – normal, kinky, or perverse. Julia Lazar, a recent high school graduate from the Ukraine, while tagging along with her older sisters, Natalia and Lena, is caught up in the dream of easy money. Although her siblings seem to be able to handle their customers, Julia finds herself addicted to drugs and alcohol which clouds her mind and leads to poor judgement in some difficult, even life threatening situations. She rationalizes her behaviors by comparing herself to wives who remain in loveless marriages for financial security. Don’t read this one for the sex, which tends to be horrifying rather than titallating. Choose instead to be educated by a novel based on real life situations, told in first person present tense as if Julia is confiding the details of her life directly to the reader.

Lola Smirnova, brought up in the Ukraine, but currently living in South Africa, has presented the first book in a Trilogy, bringing to light some of the sordid details of the seamier side of humanity. This one is not for the squeamish, but those willing to pursue an ugly, dark subject will be rewarded with a fascinating, albeit abhorrent, tale. I would like to thank Netgalley and Quickfox Publishing for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Four stars.

Review also posted on Goodreads.

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