Twisted by Lola Smirnova

Sex isn’t always sexy, and, let’s face it, sometimes it’s a hassle. But for the girls in this raw and revealing novel, that’s okay, because with the hassle and the ugliness comes something more important: money. ‘Twisted,’ written by Lola Smirnova, tells tale of three sisters who leave the downtrodden economy of post-Soviet Ukraine in search of opportunity, hope, and an escape from an otherwise inescapable cycle. Narrated by Julia, the youngest of the three siblings, it carries readers deep into the belly of the sex industry and explores the guttural circumstances, situations, and responses these “entertainers” deal with daily. Neither for the faint of heart nor the conservative thinker, it graphically depicts the girls’ sexual encounters, from what one would consider “normal” activity to the most absurd, scandalous, and depraved deeds imaginable (though many scenes are beyond even the most ambitious of imaginations). As the story unfolds, so too does the nature of Julia’s character, which, beneath the cloud of empty sex, good drugs, and bad luck, is surprisingly strong, resilient, and aware of her social, political, and moral surroundings, even if numb to her own internal feelings. This numbness, however, turns to painful pins and needles as ‘Twisted’ winds to its conclusion, and when the book closes, so much more is left open – not just for Julia, but also for her sisters.

To be sure, despite whatever genre into which sellers or librarians would cast this title, ‘Twisted’ is by no means erotica or sexually-stimulating fiction. It is not meant to serve as fodder for anything but long, hard thinking and is much deeper than it is dirty. Although it may, at times, offend some of your higher senses, it speaks to basic drives that we all have somewhere inside us and reminds us that, with every choice we make, there are consequences. I highly recommend ‘Twisted’ to open-minded readers who aren’t afraid of a little blood, sweat, and semen. It’s sure to shock and surprise you, with both its storyline and its literary value.

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