Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

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

Set in New Orleans in the 1950s, Out of the Easy was recently named one of YALSA’s Top 10 Fiction picks of 2014.  Although historical fiction does not usually appeal to me, I have come across some recent titles that may change my perception of the genre.  Check out The Diviners (1920s), and In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Spanish Influenza-1918).

The protagonist, seventeen year old, Josie opens the book with “my mother’s a prostitute” and I was immediately hooked.  I loved reading about New Orleans’ dodgy underbelly!  Influenced by her abusive gangster boyfriend, neglect and crime qualify Josie’s mother for the worst mother of the year.  Because of her situation, Josie has become one strong willed, determined, independent lady who earns a living by working in a bookstore and cleaning the brothel.  Readers will be rooting for Josie as she works to escape ‘The Big Easy’ to attend college with her new uptown friend. However, Josie’s dreams are slashed when the mob targets her for retribution of her mother’s actions. Fortunately, Josie has some wonderful  supporters to help her along the way.  My favourite being Willie, the brothel madam.  She is terrifying, but always looks out for Josie. Although many scenes are set in the brothel, Septeys keeps it pretty clean.

Framed by a murder mystery, this novel will keep your interest and stay with you for a long time.  A recommended read to fans of historical fiction.

More praise:

* “With a rich and realistic setting, a compelling and entertaining first-person narration, a colorful cast of memorable characters and an intriguing storyline, this is a surefire winner. Immensely satisfying.” —Kirkus, *Starred Review*

* “[A]nother taut and charged historical novel… Sepetys has also built a stellar cast. Readers will find Josie irresistible from the get-go and will devour the sultry mix of mystery, historical detail, and romance.” —Publishers Weekly, *Starred Review*

* “A Dickensian array of characters; the mystique, ambience, and language of the French Quarter; a suspenseful, action-packed story. With dramatic and contextual flair, Sepetys introduces teens to another memorable heroine.” —School Library Journal, *Starred Review*

 

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