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.
With characters as captivating as those in her internationally 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. – Goodreads
To be quite honest I am not sure how I heard of this book because it starts out as not a very “Ashley” book at all, but by the end I was engrossed and could not believe the book was ending because I wanted more of these characters. Out of the Easy is a coming of age story featuring Josie, a girl who has had it rough from birth. Josie’s mother is a brothel prostitute and Josie is determined to get out of the life her mother is trying to lead her. No matter what Josie does her mother will tell her that she is just jealous of her. Josie’s mother is that mother no one wants. Josie half way through the novel finds out who she is named for: not the book character she always thought.
Josie is extremely smart (brain and street-wise) and she knows there is more to the world than this little corner of New Orleans that she is stuck in. The problem is no one around her really understands this. One of the few women in her life, that she trusts, tries to understand her, but wants her to stay near everything she’s ever known. She’s willing to pay for Loyola or Newcomb, which even in the 1950s was not cheap. Even with this offer, she still wants to leave the area. Mostly because of her mother and her mother’s boyfriend Cincinnati, a perpetual abuser who often makes Josie fear for her life. Cokie, one of the few men that Josie trusts tries to collect money so that Josie can go to her East Coast School, only to have her mother find out about it and get ideas.
Through a chance meeting with a girl named Charlotte, Josie comes to believe that she can really get out of New Orleans. Charlotte comes from a snoby-East-Coast family who, at a party, makes it clear that no, Josie doesn’t belong. They look down on her, but Charlotte encourages her to follow her hopes and dreams: to look outside of New Orleans. While Josie is looking outside New Orleans she meets Mr. Lockwell. Mr. Lockwell who promises to help her get into an East Coast College. Mr. Lockwell though from the very beginning gives Charlotte a bad feeling. The same feeling she gets when she is around Cincinnati. Josie ignores this feeling because she wants to go to said East Coast College so badly. This of course comes to a head at a pivotal point in the novel. Warning: there are many pivotal points in this novel. So much happens in the last 50 pages that you’re hoping and begging that Josie will be okay.
Out of the Easy is not only a story of self-discovery, but also one of self-acceptance. While at the beginning Josie is content with who she is by the end she is happy with who she has become and one day will be because some interesting experiences end up shaping her for the better. The book does not have the perfect happy ending, and there is no way it could, but it does end extremely hopeful.