Ruta Sepetys is fast becoming one of my go to authors for a solid read. Her latest book, Out Of The Easy, is another historical fiction but set in 1950s New Orleans instead of 1941 Lithuania. Despite the different settings, I found Sepetys’ latest book to have the same emotional draw as Between Shades Of Gray. I found myself feeling as invested in Out Of The Easy as I was with Sepetys’s debut. You need to give this book a shot, my friends, ESPECIALLY if you’re looking for a hard hitting historical book.
At a young age, Jo and her mom moved from Detroit to New Orleans, where her mother has gainful employment as a prostitute. Jo helps around the brothel by doing chores and making coffee for the madam, Willie. As she gets older, she finds employment at Marlowe’s bookstore alongside her best friend Patrick. As we read Out Of The Easy, we learn that Patrick’s dad, Charlie is suffering from something akin to dementia and Patrick and Jo do their best to hide it so he won’t end up in a psych ward. Meanwhile, Jo’s mom is in trouble with the mob and is seeing this bad news abusive guy known as Cincinati. When a rich man, Forest Hearne, comes into Marlowe’s to buy some books he makes the assumption that Jo is a college girl and is going to make something of herself. It is from there that the seed is planted in Jo’s head that she could leave the Big Easy and maybe attend a prestigious school, like say, Smith College. So, anyways, Forest Hearne ends up murdered and Jo is obsessed with the case and so much happens and I refuse to spoil you except to say the plotting is excellent and complex and wonderful.
Named for a famous madam, Jo is my favorite sort of main character. She’s strong in a carry on and do your best and dare to hope for something better sort of way. She has had the worst upbringing with a very terrible mother but she learns to rise above it. Honestly, Jo really carries Out Of The Easy and I loved that. She may not always be the most confident, but at least she tries and takes some shots (as in you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take) and I love that. I also loved that she was bookish and independent. She’s also the sort who knows what kind of path she wants in life and goes for it. Basically what I am saying is I loved her character to the moon and back.
Out Of The Easy contains a romance as well. It’s subtle and you sort of don’t realize the attraction is there until BAM it just kind of hits you. I am not sure how much sense that makes, but at first Jo is into one guy and it’s like, awww friends forever maybe lovers later. BUT THEN it’s like, oh this dude is totally wrong for her and this other guy is much more interesting. I loved how the romance played out and how unexpected it felt. It’s just nice to read a book where the romance isn’t in your face, but then you look back on what you just read and think yes, that made total sense and I can totally imagine Jo riding off into the sunset with her love interest.
If you found yourself loving the writing in Between Shades Of Gray, but are apprehensive about Out Of The Easy, relax. Sepetys’s latest book has flowing prose and short chapters and is that sort of read where you just one more chapter yourself until the end. It’s quite gripping and while the circumstances are totally different from her first book, you can still feel a sense of claustrophobia and danger as things close in on Jo. Yet despite the unfortunate circumstances there is still a thread of hope that I found myself clinging to as a reader and ultimately, I did feel rewarded after reading Out Of The Easy. There’s definitely a great payoff to be found within this book.
Disclosure: Received for review
Other reviews of Out Of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys:
Alexa Loves Books – “a complete immersion into the hustle and bustle of New Orleans in the 1950”
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves – “I unabashedly want to shout out cheers for this fine novel.“
Cuddlebuggery – “I didn’t love Out of the Easy, but I think it’s worth a read if you’re interested.”