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Reviewed by Gary Stout for Readers' Favorite
Twisted, by Lola Smirnova, is a nightmare journey into the life of Julia, a young woman from Ukraine who, struggling for a future, follows her sister's path into the sex trade. In the post-Soviet break-up world, there is little to offer in the way of traditional jobs. Skilled doctors in the state hospitals earn a couple hundred a month, but a woman working in a cabaret, strip club, or as a call girl in one of the nearby countries can earn several thousand. All she needs to succeed is what she was born with and the ability to skillfully size up a client’s needs and perform to his expectations, while trying to stay out of prison. Yet, Julia quickly learns the money comes with a price in violence, degradation, and addiction.
Smirnova takes us on a philosophical and pseudo-psychological pilgrimage through the sexual underworld as Julia, in first person narrative, describes her struggling introduction into a profession where she can ply the only skills currently marketable. Twisted follows Julia’s self-destructive voyage and is often graphic, but not gratuitously so. The sex and violence aren’t there to titillate – they show a world most of us will never see, nor would we want to first-hand. Smirnova doesn’t hold back in her depiction of that underbelly world and the people that populate it, providing a solid backdrop in which Julia acts and reacts. The characters are real, dialog intoxicating, and the plot well crafted. Whether Julia is soaring or plummeting, you are along for the ride because Twisted pulls you in, whether you’re a willing participant or not. Well done!