There’s scarcely a better location for a gritty novel than New Orleans, and that makes the already-very-good novel Out of the Easy, by author Ruta Sepetys, even better.
It’s 1950. Teenaged Josie Moraine is the daughter of a prostitute. Her mother isn’t the kindly sex worker who does what she needs to help her daughter. Instead, she is a selfish, greedy, completely dishonest woman who cares little for Josie and doesn’t mind using her for her own selfish needs.
But Josie isn’t alone. The successful female brothel owner Willie Woodley has taken Josie under her wing since she was a small girl. She, along with the other prostitutes and Willie’s faithful staff love Josie and take care of her as if she was their own family. In a way, that’s exactly what they are.
Josie works at a bookstore owned by a friend, and is saving her money to leave New Orleans and attend her dream college, Smith. But an unexpected murder places Josie right in the middle, and her mother is all part of the game.
I loved the characters in this novel. But I mostly loved the picture of this textured city, especially in the 1950s. The contrast between the rich families who lived in the wealthy Garden District and the poor families who lived in the French Quarter gave the novel a heavy dose of reality. Still, the characters were not stereotypical, at least not all of them.
The story moves at a quick pace, and the ending was satisfactory, if somewhat predictable.
I really enjoyed this novel.