Lola Smirnova’s Twisted is the story of three sisters who have grown up in the small town of Kherson in southern Ukraine shortly after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The narrator of the story is Julia, the youngest of the three. Her eldest sister is Natalia and the middle sister is Lena. Their family is poor and barely making a living. They yearn for a way to make money and live better lives. Their mother goes to Turkey for work and takes Natalia with her. The work is not easy, the hours are long and there are many complications. It is not a positive situation. A friend, Irina, invites Natalia and Lena to join her in Luxembourg. She says she dances at a club and she can arrange for them to do the same. Since she is spending a lot of money, the sisters decide to join her, hoping they will earn money too. Of course, ‘dancing’ is a euphemism for more sexually creative endeavors and the sisters are aware of this prior to joining Irina. A year later, Julia joins the others.

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“It didn’t matter what occupation or job you had – doctor, teacher, scientist or student – all ex-soviet folk struggled equally, seldom able to stretch their money further than the rice or potatoes on their plates.”

As the narrator, Julia relates a variety of encounters she and her sisters have with the men they are being paid to entertain. She also tells of her extensive use of cocaine as part of that scene. Her sisters’ concerned comments are minimized and glossed over. Her situation becomes more and more compromised leading her eventually to accompany another friend to Istanbul to work in the same sort of profession while her sisters remain in Luxembourg. Without them, she hits even deeper lows, although Smirnova tells everything in an upbeat tone.

The sexually explicit scenes are not arousing. Instead they are matter-of-fact descriptions of the demands on a “working girl.” It is told without embellishment or sentimentality and reads more like a memoir than a novel. The book is a dark, straight-forward tale of how a young woman becomes a prostitute.

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