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.
Out of the Easy was one of those books where I had a very strong suspicion going in that I was going to love it. For one thing, I’ve read nothing but rave reviews of Sepetys’s book Between Shades of Grey (please, tiny baby Jesus, not to be confused with the soul-stealing word vomit that is 50 Shades of Gray). I haven’t read it myself – though after reading Out of the Easy it’s getting a hefty bump on my backlist to-read – but I literally have never seen a bad review of it. It’s also got two of my total book weaknesses going for it – set in the 1940s (plus 1950, if you want to be really persnickety) and New Orleans, a town which fascinates me. I was right…I loved this book so much.
If you’re looking for a book that is heavy on action, this isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a book that’s heavy on romance…this one also isn’t for you. Don’t get me wrong, there is some, but it’s far from the central issue of the story. This book is all about the characters, most specifically Jo, and how she desperately wants to escape her upbringing as the daughter of a prostitute. She dreams of bigger and better things for herself and wants nothing more to escape the shadow of her mother’s reputation and the shame she feels as the result of it. She dreams of going away to college in a place where no one knows her, no one knows what kind of life she’s lived, and she’s free of preconceived notions and sideways glances.
Jo. Is. Awesome. Guys, this is seriously one of the best main characters I have read in a LONG TIME. She’s simultaneously a sympathetic character because you feel so sorry for what she’s had to deal with over her life and a total badass for wanting to better her life and making a plan to do so. In fact, all of the characters in this book are exceptionally well written, even the ones who don’t get as many pages. They’re all interesting. Some of them are fabulous people, some of them are the scum of the earth, but I found them all totally believable and it really made the story come alive for me.
Another thing that made the story come alive was the setting. The time period is so well written that I could almost feel like I was a part of it. It was like being in 1950s New Orleans – a year long before I was born in a city I’ve never been to. And amazingly, it was done without a lot of gratuitous references to set the scene. Not a bunch of mentions of things that would immediately lead one to think of New Orleans like voodoo or certain types of food. To me, that was a seriously strong point of the writing. I felt transported back in time and I loved it.
I really can’t say enough good things about this book. I was never bored and I actually was irritated when I had to put it down and do things like, oh, go to work. I really, really loved everything about it, from the story itself to the characters to the writing. Most definitely highly recommended.