Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Out of the Easy
By Ruta Sepetys
Philomel Books

To Sum It Up:

From an early age, Josie Moraine learned to fend for herself. Her mother is a prostitute in a New Orleans brothel and cares only about herself. Josie has a job in a bookstore—and a job cleaning up in the mornings at the brothel—and hopes that one day, her savings will amount to enough for her to have a different kind of life. One chance encounter puts a college education far away from New Orleans within her reach, while another pulls her deeper and deeper into a murder investigation. Josie has a difficult choice to make: escape, or let New Orleans continue to keep its hold on her.


I love the cover of Out of the Easy, and it plus all the praise I’d seen for Ruta Sepetys’s writing landed this on my TBR list. Out of the Easy is very much a character driven novel; I don’t always have the best luck with those, but for the most part, Sepetys’s characters carry the novel well. They’re also aided by the fantastic work she does in bringing the New Orleans of 1950 to life on the page.

I was fascinated by the book’s portrayal of the city and how Sepetys juxtaposed its upscale face with its seamier one. The majority of New Orleans that is seen through the eyes of Josie, the protagonist, is the latter. The respectable locals know who and what her mother is—a prostitute—and their sneers trail Josie when she walks by. Thanks to her mother, Louise, Josie has grown up among what might be considered questionable company, but in fact several of these people have cared for Josie more than her mother has. Josie’s dealings with a member of high society who’s thoroughly vile underscore how appearances aren’t everything with these characters.

So much of the book hinges on Josie’s story, and meeting her as a child at the beginning of the book made me a little wary of how I was going to like her later as a seventeen-year-old young woman. Based on her sassy conversation with Willie, the madam of Louise’s brothel, I thought Josie might turn out to be an I’m-Too-Smart-for-You type of character, but she didn’t. She was quite complicated, which was a good thing, but the street smarts that made her pretty cool sometimes conflicted with her decisions. I was particularly frustrated with Josie when she found herself in a heap of trouble trying to mop up her mother’s mess. All right, Josie kept mum because she didn’t want anyone to get hurt because of her, but I thought she should have realized that she did have people, like Willie, whom she could tell anything to.

Willie was definitely my favorite character and stole the show, in my opinion. She may be a brothel madam, but she’s also one incredibly shrewd businesswoman. At the end of the day, her money is as good as that of any other business person in New Orleans. Willie taught Josie how to use a gun, and it’s also Willie who looks out for Josie in a way that Louise never has. And you just don’t mess with Willie Woodley. I’d equally fear incurring her wrath as I would that of the city’s gangsters.

I slightly preferred the murder mystery plotline over the one revolving around Josie’s efforts to gain admission to Smith College. Again, I saw the reasoning behind her actions, but I didn’t necessarily agree with them. Josie wants out of New Orleans and, for once in her life, not to be judged because of her mother. I get that. Yet she’d also be among some of the very sort of social elite who’ve put her down. This is totally a hang-up on my part, though, because I think more along the lines of, if I’m not good enough for your little club, well, forget you, too. I did enjoy reading Out of the Easy; whether you like the characters or would like to see Willie use some of them for target practice, they certainly leave an impression.

All in All:

I will definitely be reading more of Ruta Sepetys’s books in the future. I don’t always go for character studies, but this one was quite well done.


  1. New Orleans is always a draw for me. Someday I will visit that city... I love this Willie character. She's my kind of anti-hero, very provocative character.

    1. I love anti-heroes/anti-heroines, too, and that's why I took to her character so much. And I've definitely become more fascinated by New Orleans since I started reading Sherrilyn Kenyon's books.

  2. This sounds really good and I have read a ton of good reviews of it!

    1. I'd wanted to check this out for quite some time, and it was very much worth a read. Her other novel, Between Shades of Gray, is also supposed to be excellent; my cousin loved it!

  3. I remember the cover for this one grabbing my attention when it was released so I thank you for reviewing it and reminding me about it! It sounds like a really engaging and atmospheric read. I do enjoy character driven reads sometimes and this sounds like it would be as good as any! I've heard really great things about the author too so I can't wait to read this one :) Thanks for the review Lee ^^

    1. The characterizations are really well done here. It drives me crazy when a novel completely depends on its characters and I can't find the investment in them. That's definitely not the case with this book, though.

  4. I agree, a lot of what Josie wanted frustrated me! I liked it more when she just wanted to get out and do something, before she got the idea of Smith College in her head! I did love the portrayal of the city. I wasn't as big of a fan of Willie, but I did really enjoy her. Fantastic review!

    1. I understood that she wanted to get out of New Orleans and start fresh, but at the same time it bothered me that she wanted to fit in so badly with people who looked down on her. I loved the setting, too; I think New Orleans would be a great place to visit some day!


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