Friday, 30 August 2013

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Pengiun
Release Date: 12th February 2013
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 out of 5

Description: Josie Moraine wants out of The Big Easy - she needs more than New Orleans can offer. Known locally as a brothel prostitute's daughter, she dreams of life at an elite college, far away from here. But then a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie caught between her ambition and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans is luring Josie deeper in as she searches for the truth, and temptation beckons at every turn.

Out of the Easy is a touching story about a girl who grew up in the clandestine world of New Orleans.  This book has what I would call old school charm. Its heart warming and devastating at the same time, with interspersed humor.  Set in New Orleans in the 1950’s Ruta Sepetys paints a very vibrant picture of life in the Quarter.  This book has its own identity. Out if the Easy does not shy away from a clandestine world of crime but embraces it.  This book is slower paced. Instead of a plot driven story, this book is a character exploration. It takes us into Josie’s life and explores the decisions, expectations and dreams of a young girl who’s had a very tough life.

Josie is the daughter of a prostitute. She has a tumultuous relationship with her mother and has lived on her own since the age of 11. She cleans the house for the local madam Willie and works in a bookstore. This is not the life she wants, she wants out of New Orleans and an education in a top university.  However her dreams are dashed when unfortunate circumstances have Josie caught between leaving and staying wrapped up in the underground world of the Quarter. Josie is a beautifully flawed character. She is a product of her environment, with plenty of intelligence, independence and street smarts. When push came to shove, she was very bold and willing to get herself dirty when she wants something. She has decisions to make this book. These decisions are not to be taken lightly but ones with lasting consequences that will haunt her. As the book goes on, there is a desperation that creeps into Josie. As they say desperate times call for desperate measures and lead Josie down a path to make some bad judgment calls.

Josie also has to reconcile who she is compared to who she wants to be. This book highlights the differences between the social orders. Being the daughter of a prostitute, Josie has balance the perception of how people see her, with what she views herself to be. There is a whole cast of eccentric and diverse secondary characters in this book, right from sleazy men to the girls working in the house. I loved the Madam Willie. She was blunt, fierce and loyal.  She was a surrogate mother to Josie. Cokie was charming.  The girls who worked the brothel were all distinct layered characters with ambiguous traits.  I hated Josie’s mother, and if you read this book you will understand why. I liked the portal of the world of crime. The criminal activities weren’t frowned upon it and the prostitutes were not tragic souls in need of saving. These characters were completely three-dimensional with flawed personalities. 

The romance in this book is sweet and you can’t but smile when you meet Jesse, the wayward boy with a heart of gold. He and Josie come from a similar background and therefore understood each other very well. I loved the criminal aspect of this book. I was fascinated reading about how the house was run and how the mob worked. The little details about how the hustle happened on the streets was brilliant.  It’s a great peek behind the curtain of crime in the 1950’s. I also loved the language of the time period such as tricks and cats pajamas.

This book was the cat’s pajamas. A moving story about a young girl and the decisions she needs to make. A beautifully written historical story.

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