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. (goodreads.com)
Sepetys writes incredibly captivating and rich characters that jump off the page with every turn. Even a character like Cincinnati, who has very little actual page time, casts a significant shadow over Josie for most of the book and haunts her waking life when he does momentarily show up.
You feel for Josie as she navigates her way through life with a non-traditional family because her mother certainly doesn’t give a damn about her and her father isn’t in the picture. So she has Patrick and Charlie and Cokie and eventually Jesse, Willie and the girls down at her house. Even though it’s a life she desperately wants to escape she finds a comfort there that’s ultimately hard for her to break from.
With her obsession with the society pages followed by her ultimate shattering of dreams that comes with properly being exposed to that mess, Josie’s forced to adjust her expectations, both for good and for bad, and re-evaluate how she’s going to get what she wants out of life. Because she’s a determined girl. She will get what she wants in some fashion. That much is obvious.
I also love how she retains pieces of her mother in her, like how we all have pieces of people in us that we don’t immediately recognize as being there but are ultimately there whether we believe it or not. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s allowed her to survive as long as she has and still retain her integrity and her soul. It’s an “only use in case of emergencies” piece of her personality. But it works and it makes her all the more real.
OUT OF THE EASY is a captivating story that I found hard to put down. Sepetys has a way of humanizing even the most abhorrent of characters, like Josie’s mother. The woman is awful, but she’s also an incredibly sad, vaguely tragic figure who’s a product of her own choices and she doesn’t even know it. New Orleans is a rich, colorful, dirty world and Sepetys doesn’t cut any corners in making it a character unto itself. Definitely worth a read to watch a woman in the 1950s break out of her chains, and not chains of society, but chains of her circumstances. Society at the time actually plays very little into the greater story. Sometimes there are bigger problems in the smaller picture.