Okay, so I’ve been reading a lot of debut novels lately and none of them have been interesting enough to review. But, I did read Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (her second novel) and it was excellent.
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.
First Impressions: Do you like historical fiction? Do you like exceptional writing?
Based on the back cover of this book, I had a lot of trouble actually buying it. I would go to the store, carry it around for a bit, and then put it back on the shelf because it just didn’t immediately grab me. But I loved the look of it (I admittedly judge books by their covers, big time); I liked the font and the color scheme and the picture. And I like New Orleans. I’ve only been once, but it was just this special place, totally in a league of its own (and the food is baller, alright). It was the combination of the fancy cover and the setting that finally pushed me to purchase the book, which I am very glad I did.
Josie Moraine is the daughter of a prostitute who, for reasons made clear in the book, is a total scumbag. From page one, you’re rooting for Jo to relieve the weight of her nasty upbringing.
In order to support herself, Jo works as a maid in the brothel where her mother is situated. She’s been cleaning up after the “nieces” since she was eight years old, and has found a somewhat dearer mother-figure in the brothel madam, a raspy-voiced, dark alcohol-chugging woman named Willie. Willie cares for her in ways that her mother never has. She even attended her high school graduation, arriving in her souped-up black Mercedes alongside Cokie, driver and longtime companion. Josie’s mother did not make the event.
Josie was abandoned by her mother once she joined the brothel, and at the age of eight, found a place to live in the form of an apartment above a little bookshop, where she works to pay the rent. Patrick, son of the bookshop owner, has worked at the store with Josie since they were young, and has been a constant in her life.
And then there’s Jesse Thierry, a boy living in the Quarter, selling flowers and his grandpa’s flower stand and spending a little too much time smiling at Josie.
I liked this book a lot. It’s probably my favorite of the year so far. I think it’s so good because it’s so different. There are a bunch of different plot lines occurring at once, which many authors can’t pull off. It’s usually too overwhelming or confusing, but Sepetys writes each one gracefully and patiently and with conviction.
You read along as everything progresses and when something bad happens to Josie or Patrick of Cokie, it is not over-dramatized. Sepetys tells it like it is, there is no embellishing what does not need to be embellished. She writes in a way that makes conflict and and actions and their repercussions perfectly understood, without any unnecessary drama intended to make it more interesting. It doesn’t need that.
It’s very much a character driven book. They effortlessly make their way into your heart as you are drawn in by their personalities and their stories. They really make this book the success that it is. The plot is strong, but the characters are stronger. Also, prepare to cry a bit here and there. That’s how great they are!
Overall, this is a book about changing your stars and the people that will get in your way of doing that. It’s also about the people who help you along the way. Sometimes, you are born into a bad situation. You have a prostitute for a mother. You have no father. You have no money and no way to get out. This is a book about overcoming obstacles and finding family and love elsewhere.
This wasn’t a very good review. Couldn’t find the words to do it justice, I suppose. It’s really a wonderful book though. Please read it okay and, also, eat some jambalaya while you’re at it to get in the mood. You’ll thank me.