Publisher: Philomel / Speak
Published: February 2013 / March 2014
Genre: young adult, historical fiction
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.
Josie Moraine is the estranged daughter of a brothel prostitute. Working both as a cleaning lady in Willie’s house — the madam who is more of a mother than Josie’s own — and bookseller at a declining author’s bookshop, she has big plans for her future that involves getting out of New Orleans and starting life fresh in college. But everything changes when a kind, handsome man from Memphis purchases two books at the shop, and is found dead at a gambling table later that night near Josie’s mother. Josie’s race to start a new life in Boston escalates as she searches for the truth of what really happened that day in the Big Easy.
I adored Between Shades of Gray — stark writing and all — because it opened my eyes and, most importantly, gave me the biggest book hangover. But Out of the Easy showcases Sepetys’s storytelling to a whole new level. Her voice is there, but the writing style was different. Exposing that flexibility in storytelling has solidified her to becoming one of my insta-buy authors. Looking forward to her next book, Salt to the Sea!
This wasn’t so much a mystery or a thriller as it was historical and steeped in culture. It’s obvious how everything ties together — everyone and Josie knows it — but the undercurrent issues of the novel culminate to quite the climactic end. Josie wants to go to college, but then she meets a sincere and friendly Uptown rich girl, Charlotte, who suggests Josie apply to Smith College in Massachusetts. Now Josie has a specific goal, but it feels unattainable because of her terribly small financial situation. This seems like a universal issue for college hopefuls, right? Well, toss in the fact her mother’s a prostitute who’s run off with a mob man, her closest and most helpful friends are also part of the brothel business in some capacity, and the only way men can take her seriously is if she takes off her clothes or points a gun.
The underbelly of New Orleans was a fascinating setting, with a host of colorful characters and unique moral structure. Josie is an average girl in a rough place, and experiencing these heart-pounding situations with her was quite the ride.