Published by Philomel Books on February 12th 2013
Genres: Historical Romance, Young Adult
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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.
If you read my reviews then you know I’m a sucker for historical fiction. Big time. The setting always clinches it for me, so when I read the synopsis of this book, 1950s New Orleans jumped out at me like an un-scary jack-in-the-box and I knew I had to read it.
There are so many things I love about the genre, but most of all I love the feeling of being transported through time and space as if my hardcover copy is my own personal TARDIS. Only, after finishing Out of the Easy, I don’t feel like I can really picture the place at all.
While the French Quarter of New Orleans really took shape in this book, it was more due to the wickedly vibrant characters and plot development than the place where Josie lived. The not so vibrant setting and emphasis on characters is not the only surprise that came with reading this book, and it is probably the least shocking.
From a hundred pages in I thought I had this book figured out. The plot seemed simple and formulaic, and from afar the ending seemed so sunny and bright I felt like the author was pulling a Merry Poppins with spoonfuls of sugar. I quickly learned that Sepetys has no qualms in roughing up her characters.
Over the course of the book, the main character Josie has two love interests, both of which I found boring. Here was the bad-boy Jesse and there was the safe-one Patrick, now watch them pine over our dearest MC. Once again, Sepetys diverted from my expectations, giving strength and agency to one of the characters, a kind of quality that is devoid of every love triangle I have read. It was refreshing to see that the boys didn’t have to devote themselves entirely to the MC like obedient puppy-dogs, the dangerous area where a lot of love triangles go wrong.
The characters were excellent, and they really played on my emotions. I loved Willie, Cokie, Sadie and Sweety, and by the end of the book hated Cincinnati, Mr. Lockwood and most of all, Josie’s own mother.
I didn’t love Out of the Easy, but I think it’s worth a read if you’re interested. Plot wise, nothing turns out quite how you’d expect, a feature that is both devastating and uplifting. I’m still not certain exactly how I feel about the ending, but one thing I can say is that beneath all the drama and flourish, this book has a very grounded quality to it. The end resonates in the message that plans for life don’t always go the way you want them to, and you just have to keep living. Sepetys writes New Orleans as a net that Josie must escape from, and watching a girl who according to Willie is “cinderella on the outside and evil witch on the inside” was thrilling. I thought Josie was wonderfully cunning, in a way that felt necessary for someone at the very bottom with such big dreams.