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.
“My mother’s a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She’s actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.”
Out of the Easy explores a period that is rarely seen in historical fiction: New Orleans in the 1950s. A place where class is everything, the French Quarter can be a dangerous place, as Sepetys is not afraid to show.
At its core, Out of the Easy is very much a character-driven story, and home to a well-developed, memorable cast of secondary characters. From Cokie, the generous, kind-hearted driver that works for Willie, to Charlie, the bookstore owner that employs and houses Josie, to Willie herself, the “wicked stepmother with the fairy godmother heart,” Sepetys shows that the family you choose can be so much stronger than the one you’re born into.
And let’s not forget Josie, herself. Her narrations were simple yet poignant, and she was incredibly easy to relate to. At 17, Josie has experienced so much disappointment, yet she remains strong and continues to hope for normalcy. She’s intelligent, caring, and ambitious, and I wanted nothing more than for her to find a way out of New Orleans and start a better life.
A large portion of Out of the Easy takes place in a brothel, and centers itself around the life of women in the sex industry. Fate has dealt them a poor hand, so they have taken control of it in the only way they could to ensure their survival. They’re strong, caring, and oddly charming – a far cry from the pitiable, tragic, “lusty wenches” that are often portrayed.
My only complaint about Out of the Easy lies in its ending. Everything was resolved far too neatly, and it seemed somewhat rushed. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Out of the Easy, and fully intend to pick up Between Shades of Gray in the near future.