Published: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Philomel Books
It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.
She devises a plan to get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.
With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.
My ThoughtsThis is yet another novel that I’ve tackled this year where I’m left asking myself, “Why did you wait so long to dive into this book?” I truly have no good excuse. Ruta Sepetys proved herself to be an amazing author when I experienced her beautiful, poignant stories Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea. Both of those books left an impression on me, so to have waited so long to read Out of the Easy was a huge mistake on my part. Thankfully it was a book club selection, which by the way, generated huge praise from my friends and insightful discussion. Great choice!
Tackling the YA Historical genre, which is not so widely populated by other authors, appears to be Sepetys strong suit, and Out of the Easy is just another example of her skill in capturing a moment in the past and making the reader feel like they’ve immersed themselves in the moment.
In this novel, Ruta Sepetys takes us back to the 1950s in New Orleans, Louisiana, where seventeen year old Josie Moraine struggles to break free of the social barriers that have her wishing for more out of life. As the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants to attend a prestigious college and make something of herself. However, she realizes that some opportunities are not within her grasp because of the limitations of her social standing. As a local murder complicates life on Conti Street, Josie somehow gets caught up in the mystery and struggles with a tough choice that involves either protecting or incriminating her mother.
Overall, I have to say how much I admired Josie. She’s probably one of the strongest heroines I’ve come across in YA literature that was a perfect combination of intelligent, determined and independent. Despite the social limitations and constant barriers she struggled with, Josie powered on in her journey to make something of herself. Sepetys managed to make me care for this character beyond the final chapters, which doesn’t happen too often for me.
I also have to mention Willie Wooley, Conti Street’s madam. She was probably one of my favorite characters in the book. I appreciated how she attempted to compensate for Louise’s lack of maternal instinct. Willie’s protective nature went beyond just Josie, though. She cared about her girls and the woman, despite her profession, was one I admired throughout the story.
In contrast, I could not stand Josie’s despicable mother! One of the parts I struggled with the most what how Louise stole from her daughter with no remorse!! She was an evil combination of uncaring and selfish. Horrible… horrible!
Thankfully, Sepetys peppered her novel with an ample amount of likeable characters including Cokie, Jessie and the brothel girls, all of which had such vivid, unique voices that it was easy to get caught up in their part of this story.
Overall, I’m truly glad I finally decided to break the spine of this wonderful book that’s been sitting on my shelf for too long. I’ll be sure not to put Sepetys to the side when she publishes her next novel. This author deserves attention!