Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy

4.4 41
by Ruta Sepetys
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

“A haunting peek at the life of a teenage girl in 1950s New Orleans.”--Entertainment Weekly


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 lifeSee more details below

Overview

“A haunting peek at the life of a teenage girl in 1950s New Orleans.”--Entertainment Weekly


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.




From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sepetys follows her debut, Between Shades of Gray, with another taut and charged historical novel, though the setting—the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950—is a world apart from that of her previous book. Living and working in a bookshop, 17-year-old Josie Moraine dreams of attending college—anything to get away from her mother, a prostitute with Hollywood dreams and a knack for getting involved with the worst men. When Josie becomes involved in a high-profile murder investigation, she becomes even more entrenched in her circumstances. The sensual yet rigidly class-based setting is a real standout, and Sepetys has also built a stellar cast, which includes Willie, a strident but generous madam; Charlie Marlowe, the bookshop’s owner; and a pair of potential love interests for Josie. Readers will find Josie irresistible from the get-go (“The only reason I’d lift my skirt is to pull out my pistol and plug you,” she tells a guy early on) and will devour the sultry mix of mystery, historical detail, and romance. Ages 14–up. Agent: Writers House. (Feb.)¦
Ruta Sepetys
Praise for OUT OF THE EASY

“Street-smart, literary and compassionate… Atmospheric and assured…nicely paced novel.”—Wall Street Journal

“A satisfying novel, bringing to life the midcentury French Quarter…Sepetys writes with rawness and palpable emotional unease.”—New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

“A haunting peek at the life of a teenage girl in 1950s New Orleans.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Like her debut title, Sepetys’s latest is full of transporting writing, drawing you into a past that is fully reconstructed by her superb imagination.”—Boston Globe

"Unforgettable."—Toronto Star

• "With a rich and realistic setting, a compelling and entertaining first-person narration, a colorful cast of memorable characters and an intriguing storyline, this is a surefire winner. Immensely satisfying.” —Kirkus, starred review

• “[A]nother taut and charged historical novel… Sepetys has also built a stellar cast. Readers will find Josie irresistible from the get-go and will devour the sultry mix of mystery, historical detail, and romance.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

• "A Dickensian array of characters; the mystique, ambience, and language of the French Quarter; a suspenseful, action-packed story. With dramatic and contextual flair, Sepetys introduces teens to another memorable heroine."—School Library Journal, starred review

“A page-turner that noir romance fans will gobble up. The legions of fans that Sepetys earned with her best-selling debut novel will all be lining up for this. —Booklist

“This suspenseful novel…proves Sepetys's extraordinary versatility as a storyteller.”—Shelf Awareness

"Rough-edged and glamorous by turns, this is a wild ride worth taking."—Bookpage

 

Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
Josie (Jo) Moraine has recently graduated from high school and is saving her money so she can get out of New Orleans and go to college. Her mother is a prostitute, and works for Willie Woodley, a brothel owner. Jo wants to get as far away from that world as possible but in 1950 a young woman's opportunities were limited by her status. Jo has been working (and sleeping) in a bookstore owned by Mr. Marlowe and his son. The arrival of two men changes her life. One is Cincinatti, a mafia thug with whom Jo's mother is infatuated. The other is a handsome businessman who comes into the bookstore for poetry books for his wife. Jo suspects foul play when she learns the next day that he is dead. Jo finds herself drawn into a dangerous world. When she tries to sort things out by herself, they only get worse. Sepetys draws the reader into the story with the first sentence, "My mother's a prostitute" and continues to create an intriguing world. She shows the reader how the choices we make affect our own lives and the lives of those we love. Many of her phrases read as if they came right out of the 1950's and the novels of that era (such as "dirt nap" and "the voice was thick and had mileage on it"). The sights and sounds and characters are vivid and captivating. Her sense of timing is impeccable. Mystery, suspense, and a strong heroine all add up to one fine story. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Against a vivid 1950s New Orleans backdrop, 17-year-old Josie Moraine is caught between the harsh reality of her negligent, prostitute mother's lifestyle and her desire to escape to a new life. Josie is smart, resourceful, and determined. Her support group includes Willie, the shrewd brothel madam who recognizes Josie's potential; Cokie, Willie's kind and devoted driver; Patrick, who runs the bookshop where Josie works; Charlotte, an upscale acquaintance who encourages Josie to join her at Smith College; and Jesse, the handsome motorcyclist neighbor who has eyes only for Josie. When a mysterious death leads police to Josie's mother and abusive boyfriend, the teen is drawn into the investigation and into an underworld of threats, violence, and retribution. After her mother skips town, Josie is targeted to repay her debt to a powerful criminal boss. As she tries to handle mounting adversity on her own, she struggles with fear, desperation, and her conscience. Stealing from Willie or hooking up with a wealthy john seem her only choices for survival. Overwhelmed, she reveals her predicament to Willie, who saves her in a final act of generosity. Josie's narrative features a Dickensian array of characters; the mystique, ambience, and language of the French Quarter; a suspenseful, action-packed story; and a coming-of-age realization that personal decisions ultimately shape one's future. With dramatic and contextual flair, Sepetys introduces teens to another memorable heroine.—Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC
Kirkus Reviews
Step right onto the rough streets of the New Orleans French Quarter, circa 1950… …and meet 17-year-old Josie Moraine, a feisty young woman whose mother, a prostitute in a Conti Street brothel, offers her nothing but scorn and abuse. From the tender age of 12, Josie has made her own way in the world, working in a local bookstore in exchange for a safe place to sleep and cleaning the brothel to earn money toward her planned escape from the Big Easy. Equal parts book smart and street smart, Josie's dream is to attend Smith College, and she will go to extremes, even blackmail, in her desperation to be accepted. But just when her plans start to gain some traction, her mother strikes again, putting Josie in the middle of a murder investigation and saddling her with a mob debt. There are some meaningful messages here: that love can come from the unlikeliest of sources--the rough-and-tumble brothel madam is much more supportive of Josie than her mother ever was--and that we are all in control of our own destinies if only we choose to be. With a rich and realistic setting, a compelling and entertaining first-person narration, a colorful cast of memorable characters and an intriguing storyline, this is a surefire winner. Immensely satisfying. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101607800
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
02/12/2013
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
37,644
Lexile:
HL590L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE:

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 to treat us just fine,” said Mother, standing topless in front of the mirror, admiring her new pearls.
The next day, a dark-skinned driver named Cokie arrived at the hotel. Mother had received an invitation to visit someone important in the Quarter. She made me take a bath and insisted I put on a nice dress. She even put a ribbon in my hair. I looked silly, but I didn’t say anything to Mother. I just smiled and nodded.
“Now, Josie, you aren’t to say a thing. I’ve been hoping Willie would call for me, and I don’t need you messing things up with your stubbornness. Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. And for gosh sakes, don’t start that humming. It’s spooky when you do that. If you’re good, I’ll buy you something real special.”
“Like a doll?” I said, hoping to jog her memory.
“Sure, hon, would you like a doll?” she said, finishing her sweep of lipstick and kissing the air in front of the mirror.
Cokie and I hit it off right away. He drove an old taxicab painted a foggy gray. If you looked close, you could see the ghost of taxi lettering on the door. He gave me a couple Mary Jane candies and a wink that said, “Hang in there, kiddo.” Cokie whistled through the gaps in his teeth as he drove us to Willie’s in his taxicab. I hummed along, hoping the molasses from the Mary Jane might yank out a tooth. That was the second night we were in New Orleans.
We pulled to a stop on Conti Street. “What is this place?” I asked, craning my neck to look at the pale yellow building with black lattice balconies.
“It’s her house,” said Cokie. “Willie Woodley’s.”
“Her house? But Willie’s a man’s name,” I said.
“Stop it, Josie. Willie is a woman’s name. Now, keep quiet!” said Mother, smacking my thigh. She smoothed her dress and fidgeted with her hair. “I didn’t think I’d be so nervous,” she muttered.
“Why are you nervous?” I asked.
She grabbed me by the hand and yanked me up the walk. Cokie tipped his hat to me. I smiled and waved back. The sheers in the front window shifted, covering a shadowy figure lit by an amber glow behind the glass. The door opened before we reached it.
“And you must be Louise,” a woman said to Mother.
A brunette in a velvet evening dress hung against the door. She had pretty hair, but her fingernails were chewed and frayed. Cheap women had split nails. I’d learned that in Detroit.
“She’s waitin’ for you in the parlor, Louise,” said the brunette.
A long red carpet ran from the front door to a tall staircase, crawling up and over each step. The house was opulent, gaudy, with deep green brocades and lamps with black crystals dangling from dimly lit shades. Paintings of nude women with pink nipples hung from the foyer walls. Cigarette smoke mingled with stale Eau de Rose. We walked through a group of girls who patted my head and called me sugar and doll. I remember thinking their lips looked like someone had smeared blood all over them. We walked into the front parlor.
I saw her hand first, veiny and pale, draped over the arm of an upholstered wingback. Her nails, glossy red like pomegranate seeds, could pop a balloon with a quick flick. Clusters of gold and diamonds adorned nearly every finger. Mother’s breathing fluttered.
I approached the hand, staring at it, making my way around the back of the chair toward the window. Black heels poked out from beneath a stiff tailored skirt. I felt the bow in my hair slide down the side of my head.
“Hello, Louise.”
The voice was thick and had mileage on it. Her platinum-blond hair was pulled tight in a clasp engraved with the initials W.W. The woman’s eyes, lined in charcoal, had wrinkles fringing out from the corners. Her lips were scarlet, but not bloody. She was pretty once.
The woman stared at me, then finally spoke. “I said, ‘Hello, Louise.’”
“Hello, Willie,” said Mother. She dragged me in front of the chair. “Willie, this is Josie.”
I smiled and bent my scabby legs into my best curtsy. The arm with the red nails quickly waved me away to the settee across from her. Her bracelet jangled a discordant tune.
“So . . . you’ve returned.” Willie lifted a cigarette from a mother-of-pearl case and tapped it softly against the lid.
“Well, it’s been a long time, Willie. I’m sure you can understand.”
Willie said nothing. A clock on the wall swung a ticktock rhythm. “You look good,” Willie finally said, still tapping the cigarette against its case.
“I’m keeping myself,” said Mother, leaning back against the settee.
“Keeping yourself . . . yes. I heard you had a greenhorn from Tuscaloosa last night.”
Mother’s back stiffened. “You heard about Tuscaloosa?”
Willie stared, silent.
“Oh, he wasn’t a trick, Willie,” said Mother, looking into her lap. “He was just a nice fella.”
“A nice fella who bought you those pearls, I guess,” said Willie, tapping her cigarette harder and harder against the case.
Mother’s hand reached up to her neck, fingering the pearls.
“I’ve got good business,” said Willie. “Men think we’re headed to war. If that’s true, everyone will want their last jollies. We’d work well together, Louise, but . . .” She nodded in my direction.
“Oh, she’s a good girl, Willie, and she’s crazy smart. Even taught herself to read.”
“I don’t like kids,” she spat, her eyes boring a hole through me.
I shrugged. “I don’t like ’em much either.”
Mother pinched my arm, hard. I felt the skin snap. I bit my lip and tried not to wince. Mother became angry when I complained.
“Really?” Willie continued to stare. “So what do you do . . . if you don’t like kids?”
“Well, I go to school. I read. I cook, clean, and I make mar­tinis for Mother.” I smiled at Mother and rubbed my arm.
“You clean and make martinis?” Willie raised a pointy eyebrow. Her sneer suddenly faded. “Your bow is crooked, girl. Have you always been that skinny?”
“I wasn’t feeling well for a few years,” said Mother quickly. “Josie is very resourceful, and—”
“I see that,” said Willie flatly, still tapping her cigarette.
I moved closer to Mother. “I skipped first grade altogether and started in the second grade. Mother lost track I was supposed to be in school—” Mother’s toe dug into my ankle. “But it didn’t matter much. She told the school we had transferred from another town, and I just started right in second grade.”
“You skipped the first grade?” said Willie.
“Yes, ma’am, and I don’t figure I missed anything at all.”
“Don’t ma’am me, girl. You’ll call me Willie. Do you understand?” She shifted in her chair. I spied what looked like the butt of a gun stuffed down the side of the seat cushion.
“Yes, Mrs. Willie,” I replied.
“Not Mrs. Willie. Just Willie.”
I stared at her. “Actually, Willie, I prefer Jo, and honestly, I don’t much care for bows.” I pulled the ribbon from my thick brown bob and reached for the lighter on the table.
“I didn’t ask for a light,” said Willie.
“No, but you’ve tapped your cigarette fifty-three times . . . now fifty-four, so I thought you might like to smoke it.”
Willie sighed. “Fine, Jo, light my cigarette and pour me a Scotch.”
“Neat or on the rocks?” I asked.
Her mouth opened in surprise, then snapped shut. “Neat.” She eyed me as I lit her cigarette.
“Well, Louise,” said Willie, a long exhale of smoke curling above her head, “you’ve managed to mess things up royal, now, haven’t you?”
Mother sighed.
“You can’t stay here, not with a child. You’ll have to get a place,” said Willie.
“I don’t have any money,” said Mother.
“Sell those pearls to my pawn in the morning and you’ll have some spending money. There’s a small apartment on Dauphine that one of my bookies was renting. The idiot went and got himself shot last week. He’s taking a dirt nap and won’t need the place. The rent is paid until the thirtieth. I’ll make some arrangements, and we’ll see where you are at the end of the month.”
“All right, Willie,” said Mother.
I handed Willie the drink and sat back down, nudging the bow under the settee with my foot.
She took a sip and nodded. “Honestly, Louise, a seven-year-old bartender?”
Mother shrugged.
That was ten years ago. She never did buy me the doll.

Read More

Videos

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
**STARRED REVIEW**  Step right onto the rough streets of the New Orleans French Quarter, circa 1950…and meet 17-year-old Josie Moraine, a feisty young woman whose mother, a prostitute in a Conti Street brothel, offers her nothing but scorn and abuse. From the tender age of 12, Josie has made her own way in the world, working in a local bookstore in exchange for a safe place to sleep and cleaning the brothel to earn money toward her planned escape from the Big Easy. Equal parts book smart and street smart, Josie’s dream is to attend Smith College, and she will go to extremes, even blackmail, in her desperation to be accepted. But just when her plans start to gain some traction, her mother strikes again, putting Josie in the middle of a murder investigation and saddling her with a mob debt. There are some meaningful messages here: that love can come from the unlikeliest of sources—the rough-and-tumble brothel madam is much more supportive of Josie than her mother ever was—and that we are all in control of our own destinies if only we choose to be. With a rich and realistic setting, a compelling and entertaining first-person narration, a colorful cast of memorable characters and an intriguing storyline, this is a surefire winner. Immensely satisfying.—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >