Review of “Out of the Easy” by Ruta Sepetys

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This novel begins in 1950. Josie Moraine is the 17-year-old daughter of a selfish, shallow, and greedy mother who works as a prostitute in the New Orleans brothel run by the madam Willy Woodley. Willy acts as a sort of surrogate mother to Josie, who at age 12 had to find a place to stay away from her abusive mother and her customers. Ever since then, Josie cleans in the brothel in the mornings, but at night she sleeps in a room over the local bookstore where she works in the afternoon. What Josie wants most of all is to get out of New Orleans and to be considered “normal,” rather than “the daughter of a whore.” She reads, studies, and saves money, so she can go to college. When she hears about Smith College from a patron, Charlotte, who becomes her friend, she aspires to go there.

In spite of the drawbacks of Josie’s life, she has a very strong support system. Charlie Marlowe, the owner of the bookstore, gave her the room and has treated her like a daughter. Patrick, his son, is a good friend to Josie, and helps her learn the book trade. Cokie, Sadie, and others who work for Willy all are rooting for Josie to achieve her dreams. A local boy who clearly likes Josie, Jesse Thierry, also comes to her aid whenever he can.

New Orleans during the 1950s

New Orleans during the 1950s

But there are complications for Josie. She finds it hard, through no fault of her own, to get away from the disaster that is her mother. Her mother’s abusive boyfriend, called “Cincinnati,” has vowed to get revenge on Josie for pouring hot coffee on him (while she was defending her mother). Various “tricks” at the brothel keep pressuring Josie to join the profession. The local gang holds Josie responsible for her mother’s thefts, and Josie even suspects her mother of murder, the repercussions for which also threaten to spread to Josie’s life.

Whether she can get “out of the easy” with her burdens is not an assured thing.

Evaluation: This book has an intriguing storyline, very likable characters, and a great setting. I found it consistently interesting.

Rating: 4/5

Awards include:

Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Young Adults (2015)
Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award for Honor book (2014)
Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2015)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Fiction (2013)
Carnegie Medal Nominee (2014)
Missouri Gateway Readers Award Nominee (2016)

Published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2013

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6 Responses to Review of “Out of the Easy” by Ruta Sepetys

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I liked this book a lot too. Sepetys is two for two with me. I need to get to the one I haven’t read.

  2. I love Ruta. I thought Salt to the Sea was really terrific. And I also really liked Between Shades of Grey. I like how she teaches kids (and adults) history without jamming it down their throats.

  3. epkwrsmith says:

    This sounds like a very good book indeed! I haven’t read anything by this author but would like to give here a try 🙂

  4. Beth F says:

    I’ll have to pick this up. I Have Salt to the Sea and haven’t read it yet. Yes, I’m always behind.

  5. litandlife says:

    I haven’t read any of Sepetys’ books yet but have Salt to the Sea on my TBR. This one is getting added to that list, too.

  6. Maybe I’ll give it a try! Salt to the Sea was too much for me emotionally but perhaps this one will be just right — I’m jumpy about reading Louisiana books written by non-Louisiana authors, but it’ll probably be fine because it’s historical fiction. I also shrieked when I saw that 1950s picture because I’ve totally been to there!

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