Debut author Jordan offers a fictionalized account of a young woman’s real-life experiences with crime and prostitution in Bulgaria.
Ionna never had a very peaceful childhood: “My father was particularly inventive in his punishments and in his beatings had no equal.” She ran away from home after suffering “things that would make your hair stand on end,” and eventually falls in with a young criminal named Krasi and his gang of miscreants. They steal from foreigners in seaside resorts, and their operation is small but very successful. However, the waves of excitement and spending come to an abrupt standstill when Krasi kills someone and must flee the country. After refusing to go with him, Ionna is left with limited money and a broken heart. She eventually finds herself part of a sex trafficking ring and becomes a prostitute in an upscale hotel catering to wealthy, foreign men. Her work is often painful and grotesque (“Even the memory of what that pervert did to me makes me feel ashamed”). How will Ionna survive such an existence? Jordan provides insight into the types of traps that might face a girl like Ionna, but although the young woman’s actions are clear, much of her interior life remains opaque. Occasional flashes of personality offer captivating details (such as when Ionna encounters a videocassette recorder: “…soon the film was beginning. It was called ‘Ghost’, a marvellous story about love, death and human morality”), but she can feel, at times, like any other girl stuck in hard times. A more complex picture of her inner life might have resulted in a more memorable portrait. However, Ionna’s constant will to survive leaves readers with a sense of understanding. If nothing else, the book succeeds in illuminating a broad picture of shady dealings and the people swept up in them.
A glimpse into the life of a reluctant sex worker, featuring a sympathetic, if occasionally bland, heroine.