Philomel|February 12, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-399-25692-9
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 to 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.
Jose 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 acclaimed 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.
Josie Moraine’s mother, Louise, began working as a prostitute in 1940 when Josie was just seven-years-old – the same year they moved from Detroit to New Orleans. Josie says her mother isn’t the “filthy, streetwalking kind” of prostitute and sleeps with men for “money and gifts” but according to the “dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.” She is actually quite pretty, fairly well-spoken and has lovely clothes according to Josie.
Their second day in New Orleans, Louise received an invitation to visit someone and a cabbie named, Cokie, showed up to escort Louise and Josie. They pulled up to a house on Conti Street that was painted a pale yellow with black lattice balconies. Josie was quite taken aback with the place and asked her mother whose house it was. “It’s her house. Willie Woodley’s” said, Louise. “HER house? But Willie’s a man’s name”, Jose said. “Stop it, Josie. Willie is a woman’s name. Now keep quiet!” replied her mother.
The inside of the house was opulent, gaudy, with deep green brocades and lamps and black crystals dangling from dimly lit shades. Paintings of nude women hung from the foyer walls and cigarette smoke mingled with stale Eau de Rose. Louise and Josie walked through a group of girls who patted Josie on the head and called her sugar and doll.
Stepping into the next room, the first thing Josie saw was a veiny, pale, hand draped over the arm of an upholstered wingback chair. Her nails were glossy red like pomegranate seeds that could pop a balloon with a quick flick. Gold and diamonds clustered every finger. Her voice was thick, her plantinum blond hair was pulled tight in a clasp engraved with the initials W.W. Her eyes were lined with charcoal and she had wrinkles fringing out from the corners, and her lips were scarlet red. Willie made it quite clear that she didn’t like children which therefore meant Louise and Josie could not reside in Willie’s house with the other girls. Willie told Louise about a small apartment on Dauphine that one of her bookies had been renting but he’d just recently gotten himself shot and killed so wouldn’t be needing the apartment anymore. Willie told Louise to settle in and they’d talk again at the end of the month.
By 1950 when Josie was seventeen-years-old, she was living alone above the bookstore where she worked. Her mother was prostituting for Willie and had no interest in Josie whatsoever. Josie’s big dream was to escape the Big Easy and head for Smith college but the tuition was two-thousand dollars a year and where would she come up with that kind of money?
In the meantime, her mother, Louise has gotten herself involved with a man named Cincinnati who was one bad dude. Someone you certainly wouldn’t want to cross. Although he beat Louise, she could look over that due to his generosity with his big money, fancy restaurants and the best hotels New Orleans has to offer.
One day a tourist stops into the bookstore where Louise works and purchases two books but winds up dead on New Year’s Eve. At first his death is ruled as a heart attack until police get word that something else is up. His body is exhumed, an autopsy done and it’s concluded that he was murdered. Everyone in the Big Easy is on edge and being questioned by the police. Willie, wanting to protect Josie sends her away to her summer home until the heat dies down. She didn’t want Louise dragging Josie into something she wasn’t responsible for. What Willie doesn’t know is that Josie is already involved. She took something that belonged to the tourist that the police and dead man’s wife are now looking for and Josie doesn’t know what to do with the evidence. What transpires in this story will knock your socks off. I read this book in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down. It was the best 4.5 hours I’ve spent in a long time.
Out of the Easy is one story I won’t soon forget. The characters are endearing each in their own way and one in particular is an absolute doll. You’ll love this book and will want to pass it on to friends and family, I know that’s what I’m going to do.
Ruta Sepetys’ first novel was titled “Between Shades of Gray” and if you haven’t read it, you might want to pick it up at the same time as ‘’Out of the Easy”. Ms. Sepetys is well on her way to becoming a well-known bestselling author and I can’t wait to read her next book.