This book is not a comfortable read, and neither should it be as the author takes you on the disturbing journeys of two young girls, Nico from Moldova and Sammy from Dublin as they become embroiled in the underworld of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, enslavement into prostitution and abuse. There is great writing in this gripping novel and a wonderful sensitivity to the subject matter so that the author never loses sight of the fact that the characters portrayed are individuals who deserve the dignity that that affords, and not just victims trying to survive such horror. Lisa shows you that this is closer to your ‘safe’ world than you would like to imagine as you bump up against the ‘girls’ in suburbia, in nice hotels, in clubs and bars and even nursing homes. It is hard to read about such evil and heartbreak and even harder to see how or what you can do about it, as was expressed by the book club members, but perhaps by reading this wonderful novel you are at least acknowledging what you already knew existed and by talking about it you are joining the author in giving the Nico's and Sammy’s of this world a voice deserving to be heard.
Harvesting tackles a very challenging topic and for this reason some of us found it far from easy to read. However the writing is so good, and Lisa's ability to get into the mindset of her two central characters is such that most of us found it completely absorbing in spite of its heartbreaking subject matter, and our interest in the fortunes of Nico and Sam held up to the end. Lisa is a member of the congregation and she joined us on Zoom for our discussion. She explained that the content of the book is entirely authentic: she wrote it after she had been invited to read some first-hand accounts of girls who had been trafficked for the sex trade. These affected her so deeply that she felt she had to give the girls a voice, and, as she puts it, 'the words exploded onto the page'. I knew Harvesting would be harrowing to read, and it was. But this novel is a magnificent achievement and if Lisa could find the courage to write it, then I think the least we can do is to find the courage to read it. The experience of reading it is undoubtedly traumatic but it is also richly rewarding.