Josie Moraine is living in New Orlean’s French Quarter in 1950. The daughter of a prostitute, Josie is bright, motivated, but marked by her mother’s profession. All Josie wants is to get out of the seedy world of New Orleans, but obstacles keep getting in her way. When a mysterious death in the Quarter, Josie gets caught in the investigation. Before the mystery is solved, Josie’s trust will be broken and she’ll find herself caught in a moral dilemma.
It’s impossible not to get completely immersed in this rich historical novel. It’s the kind of historical fiction that will grab even the most skeptical of readers because everything about it is so rich. The characters, the setting, and the story create a gripping, fascinating read. This is a winner for sure.
Josie is a memorable heroine. She’s got an authentic voice and is both street and book smart, making her the kind of girl readers will root for. The fact that Josie will do anything to get into an elite college–including blackmailing a wealthy local businessman–makes her feel more human. She isn’t perfect, but she is driven, and because Sepetys is such a good writer, Josie’s also completely sympathetic.
The book is filled with other equally rich characters. Willie, the rough brothel madam, is excellently drawn. Her fierce love for Josie is palpable, but her incredibly hard exterior makes it next to impossible for her to show it. Other characters, including Cokie, the sensitive chauffer who acts as a sort of father-figure to Josie, are particularly memorable. Although the cast is rather large, it’s never hard to keep them all straight.
A rich setting and a meaty mystery add to the book’s appeal. Despite clocking in at over 300 pages, it’s a quick read, mostly because readers won’t be able to put it down. The book builds the suspense and tension to a genuinely thrilling conclusion. The resolution is satisfying but realistic, and it’s more than a little moving, too.
Definitely a stand-out read this year. Highly recommended.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. Philomel Books: 2013. Library copy.