Book Review: Out of the Easy

coverThere is just something special about New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s a chaotic mix of French, Voodoo, the old South, and African influences. It’s almost magical. However, it is also historically known as a hotbed of crime, “loose morals,” and discovering the true definition of family. At least that’s how it appears in Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy.

In the French Quarter in 1950, our main character, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine, is the daughter of a prostitute. When she isn’t working at her beloved book store, Josie works the same brothel as her mother as a cleaner. Unsatisfied with the options offered to her, Josie uses both her book and street smarts to plan her way out of the Big Easy. However a peculiar death in the Quarter pulls Josie into the investigation. Josie is put through many trials and is caught between her Smith College dreams and her dark underworld reality.

Out of the Easy is historical fiction and is very character-driven. Each character is different and unique. Josie and her relationships with others are interesting character studies. Though Josie looks similar to her mother Louise, they are otherwise nothing alike. Louise steals her daughter’s money and often denies she even has a daughter. Vain, selfish, and money-hungry, Louise is the classic bad mother, yet Josie does her best to make her mother happy. Realizing her mother doesn’t want her around, at ten years old Josie hides and eventually lives in a room in her favorite bookshop. Intelligent and resourceful, Josie learns from a very early age that she will have to make her own way in life.

Like many young girls, Josie falls in love. Unlike many girls, she isn’t sure exactly who it is she is in love with. Though I am not usually fond of love triangles, the one in this book wasn’t annoying or impossible to imagine happening in reality. There is also a little twist to it that might catch you off guard. First there is Patrick, the book shop owner’s handsome son, a kind, literary man with his own secrets. Then there is Jesse, a motorcycle-riding college student, car mechanic, and supposed bad boy. All the girls adore him, but he only has eyes for Josie. He was my favorite, mostly because he wasn’t a jerk. Also I love bad boys, even if they really aren’t all that bad or bad at all actually.

There are many other characters, and all have a part to play, but my favorite character of all is Willy Woodley, the brusque madam of the brothel. Willy is the one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in a long time. Tough, street smart, and business minded, Willy calls everyone idiots, but isn’t as cold as she seems. She is a well respected member of the community, a woman who built and runs her own business, which is a whore house, but a place where her girls could safely ply their trade. She treats everyone with the same respect, but isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She has a soft spot for Josie. Willy went to her high school graduation. She bought Josie a beautiful gold watch for her eighteenth birthday, and most of all, she gave Josie money when Josie’s mother got into a scrape. Willy Woodley redefines what it is to be a good person.

I loved this book. It had everything I could what in a novel. It’s historical, set in one of my favorite cities; it features book lovers, murder, mystery, and the dark underworld, but most of all it has a female lead that makes her own destiny, and takes each challenge head on. Josie is tough, but still vulnerable, and she falls in love, but that isn’t the main point of the story. She is young and poor, but doesn’t let it stop her from trying to make her dreams come true. She makes choices, some good, some bad, but all of them are made by her. She is the true master of her own destiny. I heartily recommend you give this book a read. Already read Out of the Easy? Then maybe try Ruta Sepetys’s internationally bestselling novel, Between Shades of Gray.

1 thought on “Book Review: Out of the Easy

  1. Pingback: Out of the Easy: Tough-talkin’, gunslingin’, wanna-be college girl | Broken Penguins

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