Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Release: Feb 12, 2013
Source: ARC provided by author for review
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 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.
First off, thank you Ruta for generously providing this ARC.
And thank you for writing such a beautiful story.
Out of the Easy is vastly different than Between Shades of Grey. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the lack of physical violence and torture. This book did not shock me in the way Lina’s story did. Nevertheless, the main protagonist Josie Morraine deals with neglect and verbal abuse from her prostitute mother. Most think Josie won’t amount to much, but she refuses to believe that. She dreams of something more and she’s daring to reach for it.
It’s a dream, though, that will cost Josie the life she has always known. It’s a dream that forces her to make the choice to sever the ties that hold her in the Big Easy.
Above all, this is a story about finding oneself. It is a story of self discovery. It is also a story that proves “all is not what it seems”. The murder mystery, the secrets, and the lies manage to surface and taint a time period that is often idealized. Beneath that perfection is always a deeper story.
I also must say that I admired Josie Morraine, her strength, and her love for books (although I’d pick Gilbert Blythe over Ethan Frome any day). It was so much fun picking out historical references from books and that particular time period. Ruta obviously did her research and it paid off. She managed to bring New Orleans to life in a way that’s fascinating, and yet shocking.
As mentioned, Josie’s grown up all her life being ignored, chastised, and neglected by her prostitute mother. The mother is selfish, silly, and ungrateful. In a way, it helped make Josie more resilient and she eventually chooses to live on her own.
Josie spends her time working a bookshop, and living in the apartment above. Her closest confidant is the bookstore owner’s son, Patrick. He’s shy, and yet is one of the few people who respects Josie as an individual, and refuses to judge her because of her mother. Willie, Patrick, and Cokie become Josie’s foundation as she dreams of leaving the city and attending college. Willie is the no-nonsense Madam of her mother’s brothel. While she may seem rough, harsh, and uncaring, there’s a layer of love and sympathy underneath that surfaces from time to time. And Cokie, Willie’s quadroon driver, never fails to provide Josie with the encouragement and support in her times of need. He loves Josie unconditionally and sees no reason to hide it.
Then there’s also the mysterious/casual acquaintance, Jesse. I won’t say too much about him, other than I wish Ruta had developed him more. I also think the romance depicted lacked spark and chemistry, but this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading this, because it is much more than a romance novel. Like I said, it’s a book about dreams, idealism, and finding oneself.