Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
I didn’t have the pleasure of reading Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray, but I was very intrigued by the plot of Out of the Easy. I knew the plot, coupled with the rave reviews her writing got for her debut novel, would make this a book I would enjoy.
Josie Moraine, 17, lives in New Orleans where she’s known as the prostitute’s daughter. Josie doesn’t let that label stop her, though. She’s been living on her own since she was ten, in a small office above a bookshop where she works for her room and board, and has dreams of attending college. In order to save for college, she cleans the brothel where her mother works in the morning for the madam, Willie.
New Year’s Eve brings everything but a chance for Josie to start fresh. First she learns Cincinnati, a man believed to work for the godfather of the New Orleans mafia, is coming back to town. Josie’s mother was crazy about him, even though the last time he was in town he beat her badly enough to send her to the hospital. After Josie poured hot coffee on him when he had the nerve to show up at her mother’s room, he vowed to come back to town and make her pay. The news that he’s returning definitely puts Josie on edge.
Then she meets Forrest Hearne, Jr., a former Vanderbilt football player in New Orleans for the holidays. He goes to the bookshop to purchase Keats poetry, and Josie finds herself dreaming that he is her long-lost father. The illusion is quickly shattered, though, when the next day she learns he was murdered. Before long, that murder investigation begins to completely change Josie’s plans for the future, and her relationships with those around her.
While there’s a lot that can be said about the plotting, setting, and writing in Out of the Easy (all amazing, by the way), by far Sepetys’ homerun effort in the novel was the characters she created. My favorite characters were, by far, Willie and Cokie. I loved the juxtaposition between Willie being this rough and tough brothel madam who showed so much care and love for Josie and those who were fiercely loyal to her. I never worried about Josie having a terrible absentee mother more concerned with her own life because I knew Willie would always be there for her, in her own brusque way. I also loved Cokie, the brothel driver and every man, not only for his loyalty to Willie but for how easily and openly he cared for Josie. He showed such pride in Josie going to college that I wanted her to be able to attend any college just for him.
In a time when novels written for teens are heavy on the supernatural and vampires and will they/won’t they boy/girl relationships, it’s refreshing to read something as beautiful and thoughtful as Out of the Easy. I definitely recommend putting it on your shelves today; it’s perfect for the teen reader looking for something more or the adult reader looking for good teen fiction. Gain insight into the author’s inspiration for the setting, her research, and more on the story’s characters in this author interview.
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