It's 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.
Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.
With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.
My mother's a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She's actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.
She started working in 1940 when I was seven, the year we moved from Detroit to New Orleans. We took a cab from the train station straight to a fancy hotel on St. Charles Avenue. Mother met a man from Tuscaloosa in the lobby while having a drink. She introduced me as her niece and told the man she was delivering me to her sister. She winked at me constantly and whispered that she'd buy me a doll if I just played along and waited for her. I slept alone in the lobby that night, dreaming of my new doll. The next morning, Mother checked us in to our own big room with tall windows and small round soaps that smelled like lemon. She received a green velvet box with a strand of pearls from the man from Tuscaloosa.
"Josie, this town is going ...
Just like Ruta Sepetys breathed life into that pair of opera glasses, she breathes life into her characters, and their story. She is so incredibly skilled at building a bridge from the present to the past that it is impossible to not join her in that love while reading Out of the Easy; impossible not to stand by Jo's side and root for her as she gives "those ol' wings a try."
(Reviewed by Tamara Smith).
Full Review (1280 words).
In an interview about her new book, Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys describes finding a different book, one that blew her away. She was out in the rain once and had ducked into a bookstore to keep from getting wet, when she saw the book The Last Madam: Life in the New Orleans Underworld by Christine Wiltz. She bought and read the book in one sitting. "The Last Madam" was Norma Wallace, a powerful madam who ran a brothel in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Sepetys was mesmerized. Years later, she was able to go to Wiltz's house, spend the day with her, and learn all about the New Orleans underworld that was home to Norma Wallace. She said she couldn't have written Out of the Easy without this book or Wiltz. Willie Woodley, the madam who ...
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