Out of the Easy
By Ruta Sepetys
Published 2013 by Philomel Books
Josie Moraine is desperate for an escape - it isn't easy being the daughter of a notorious prostitute in New Orleans, the Big Easy. Things go from bad to worse when a well-to-do businessman winds up dead and Josie's mother is implicated in the crime. Can Josie build a life for herself out of the Easy?
Last year, I read and loved Between Shades of Gray, so when I heard Sepetys had a new novel coming out this year, I definitely perked up. I requested an e-galley pretty much as soon as it was available and read it the first chance I had. Once again, Sepetys has written a lyrical novel with a definite sense of time and place - New Orleans is a place I think you'd be hard-pressed to mistake for someplace else and Sepetys does a wonderful job of evoking the city - the oppressive heat nicely parallels the oppression Josie feels as her mother's daughter. Though I don't know terribly much about how 1950s New Orleans might differ from the New Orleans of today, I felt like Sepetys depicted it in a believable way. Part of what I think makes this novel particularly intriguing is that glimpse into an entirely different way of life - Josie's mother is a prostitute and Josie works in the mornings cleaning at a brothel. This is not just a naughty glimpse into a sordid lifestyle, though - Josie desperately wants to find a name for herself away from her mother and the madams that currently populate her life. I like Josie, and I think Sepetys has done a good job creating a number of different and interesting characters. I like that Josie is not the only one with difficult problems and she has to understand that other people's desire to leave the city may be just as fierce as her own.
Where this book falls shy for me is emotional impact - this did not hit me nearly as hard as Between Shades of Gray. This is a lovely story of Josie's coming-of-age and finding her own strength but I found myself sort of missing the point. The book felt a bit meandering in places, and a bit too drawn out. The conclusion seemed inevitable, so why did it take so long to get there? Unfortunately, this book is missing just a little something more. It doesn't quite live up to Sepetys's first novel, but is still a great example of setting done right.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.