Out of the Easy is another amazing piece by Ruta Sepetys. Like her first novel, Between Shades of Gray, this historical fiction tale is beautifully told.
“My mother’s a prostitute.” This is the opening line for the book. That right there will get anyone’s attention. Taking place during the 1950’s in the infamous Big Easy (New Orleans, Louisiana), Josie is the daughter of a call girl.
Growing up, Josie has learned all about the inner workings of a brothel and is beloved by the house’s Madam. Having moved out at the age of 12 to live in the bookshop where she is employed, Josie still visits the brothel every morning to clean and catch up with Willie, the Madam of the house. Josie’s mother was never a nurturer, and Josie grew up under the wing of Willie, and the house’s driver, a kind-hearted quadroon man named Cokie.
Josie swore at an early age that she would never be like her mother. With a brilliant literary mind and always at the top of her class, Josie hasn’t seriously considered college before. That is until a rich man from Memphis stops into the bookstore and plants the seed in her head. Not long after, a young woman Josie’s age stumbles into the shop and tells her all about her life at Smith College in Massachusetts. After attending an Uptown party with the girl, Josie makes up her mind. Someway, somehow, she is getting out of New Orleans.
“I wasn’t certain of anything anymore, except that New Orleans was a faithless friend and I wanted to leave her.”
Josie soon discovers, though, that your past will always haunt you and she beings hating all aspects of her life. Why is it that some people have it so easy? They are born into wealth and can have their pick of schools and just about anything else they desire in life. While she has a less than satisfactory application due to her lack of extracurricular activities (because she has worked two jobs since she was a small child), Josie’s chance of admission to an elite school is a long shot. But everything isn’t always as peachy as it seems from the outside looking in. You know what they say, “The grass is always greener on the other side.”
“Let me tell you something ‘bout those rich Uptown folk. They got everything that money can buy, their bank accounts are fat, but they ain’t happy. They ain’t ever gone be happy. You know why? They soul broke. And money can’t fix that, no sir.”
Living in a city full of scandalous temptation, where climbing up from the bottom seems impossible (especially if you have a selfish mother, who refuses to let you go, and just keeps trying to drag you down with her), Josie has some pretty tough decisions to make.
“I was a scrappy girl from the Quarter, trying to make good. No matter how I parted my hair, I couldn’t part from the crack I had crawled out of.”
Sometimes trying to better yourself appears to be an impossible task. And sadly, still relevant today, money always seems to be at the root of our problems. You must have a fierce determination to accomplish your dreams. And often it’s hard to remember that no matter how bad and out of control things get, it’s always worse inside your own head. If you lean on someone you love, you’ll find a much lesser burden weighing you down. That’s what family is for. Holding it all inside to blows things up to an epic proportion.
Reminding you what it’s like to fight for your dreams, when they seem much too far away to reach, I give this elegantly woven story five out of five stars. I can’t wait to see what Ruta Sepetys has in store for us next!