Out of the Easy was probably one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. I read Ruta Sepety’s first novel, Between Shades of Grey a couple of years ago in my young adult lit class in college and it was also quite the page turner. Sepety’s has a natural talent for research, and her novels reflect the time periods very well.
Josie is the daughter of a prostitute and has been living on her own since she was 11. She lives in the bookstore owned by her friend, Charlie and his son, Patrick. She works for them during the day and cleans the brothel in the mornings. The brothel is owned by the madam, Willie Woodley, who is sort of like an evil stepmother to Josie but with a kind heart.
Josie’s goal is to get out of the French Quarter (Louisiana during 1950) and go to college, but she has no money and according to Willie, she’s just “salted peanuts.” But when a strange, handsome man appears in the bookstore one day, Josie is mesmerized and she believes him to be her father (or at least wishes he was).
The mysterious man is killed that very night on New Year’s Eve and Josie finds his watch under her mother’s bed in the brothel. She is determined to find out how he died and why.
Another interesting mix in this murder mystery is the love triangle between Josie, Patrick, and the motorcycle driving, bad-boy Jesse. Josie loves Patrick because they have grown up together and share a love of books. But Patrick is destined to stay in the French Quarter, keeping root in a place where Josie desperately needs out. Jesse is a car mechanic with a seemingly dangerous side who just wants the best for Jo. Which one will she choose?
As I mentioned before, Sepety’s characters really come to life and as a reader, you are immersed in the 1950’s New Orleans. There is murder, mystery, prostitutes, and superstition wrapped up in these pages and I had trouble putting it down!
I would give this novel a 4.5/5 only because I probably won’t read it again.