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Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

BOOK review
Started on: 19.March.2014
Finished on: 25.March.2014

Title : Out of the Easy
Author : Ruta Sepetys
Publisher : Penguin Books
Pages : 346 Pages
Year of Publication : 2013
Price : $ 17.09 (

Rating: 5/5
"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."
Josie Moraine is fatherless and her mother is a prostitute. She was seven years-old when her mother, Louise, went to a house on Conti Street to meet Willie Woodley - the madam of the brothel. Josie escaped when she was ten, when her mother started beating her up for no reason. She hid in the office of a bookshop owned by Charlie Marlowe and his son Patrick. On her eleventh birthday, the office was transformed into a small apartment for Josie - and without spoken agreement, she started working in the bookshop in exchange for the lodging. As a seventeen-year-old, Josie is a smart and intelligent girl who wants something bigger. She doesn't want to keep cleaning the brothel for Willie every morning; she wants to go to college and get out of The Big Easy.

Charlie had been good to me. One day when I was fourteen, I told Charlie that I hated Mother. "Don't hate her, Jo," he told me. "Feel sorry for her. She's not near as smart as you. She wasn't born with your compass, so she wanders around, bumping into all sorts of walls. That's sad." I understood what he meant, and it made me see Mother differently. But wasn't there some sort of rule that said parents had to be smarter than their kids? It didn't seem fair.
"Decisions, they shape our destiny." Without opening the book, he began to recite from David Copperfield. "'Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else...'"
I nodded and finished it with him. "'These pages must show.'"
On New Year's Eve, a man named Forrest Hearne came by the bookshop. He was a tall and handsome man who had assumed Josie went to college - even though she would never have the money for it. Josie always had a habit of keeping a list of respectable men as her fantasy father, and she instantly put Forrest Hearne's name on the list. But suddenly the next day, Forrest Hearne is found dead. Another person that Josie met at the bookshop is a girl named Charlotte Gates - who attended an elite college in Massachusetts, Smith. Due to friendly conversation, Charlotte invited Josie and Patrick to her family party in Uptown. But the party turns out to be a big humiliation for Josie. After meeting Charlotte, Josie is determined to enter Smith to pursue her education.
"No one's life is perfect. I find it much more interesting when people are just honest about it," said Charlotte.
Honest. But what would Charlotte think if I told her the truth? That my mother was a prostitute, that I didn't know who my father was, that most men scared me, so I created make-believe dads like Forrest Hearne.
But problems doesn't stop there for Josie, because her mother was involved with a dangerous man named Cincinnati. Somehow it seems Josie's mother was involved with the death of Forrest Hearne, and the police are investigating it. However, she escaped with Cincinnati with the help of powerful people; leaving a huge debt that Josie had to pay. Josie couldn't ask for anybody's help because otherwise the lives of people she loves would be in danger. Her only option of help is John Lockwell, Charlotte's uncle who Josie found was visiting the brothel. All her life she vowed to never be the woman her mother is. But she needed the money, and Josie is left with choices. Will she ever escape from The Big Easy? Can she achieve her dream to enter Smith?
"I wanted to be Massachusetts. I still wanted to believe that it was possible, that my wings, no matter how thin and torn, could still somehow carry me away from a life of lies and perverted men. I wanted to use my mind for study and research instead of trickery and street hustle."
image source: here. edited by me.
This is the second time I'm reading a book by Ruta Sepetys; the first time I read Between Shades of Gray (which is one of the earliest review I made on this blog) back in 2011 and I totally loved it for her writing style. Out of the Easy still brings that historical setting into the story - which is in the 1950s in New Orleans or also called as The Big Easy. Some of the historical details are difficult for me to understand; I don't even know well the history of my own country, how would I know the history of America? But still I enjoyed this heartwarming story nevertheless; mostly because of Ruta Sepetys' writing and the characters involved in the story.

I was actually quite confused how to write the plot summary above, because the plot is actually quite confusing and I honestly don't know where it's heading. The whole plot is build around the characters, but there's no certain conflict that becomes the center of the story. The story is told in first person POV of Josie Moraine - the main character, and I absolutely love the narration. The book started by introducing us to Josie and her life, as well as the important people around her: Willie, Patrick, Charlie, Cokie, and her mother. Small conflicts arise; starting with the appearance of Cincinnati, the death of Forrest Hearne, Josie befriend Charlotte who comes from Uptown, her dream to enter college, and many more. As I've said, I was quite confused where these conflicts are heading to, but then I realized that those are the things that shaped our main character. She was obviously belittled by Charlotte's wealthy family, so Josie was determined to get into Smith for education. There's also a little bit of romance involved in the story, which has an unexpected twist that I enjoyed very well while reading. Despite all the small conflicts, Out of the Easy is actually a very simple story and is a pretty light read. I enjoyed the heartfelt moments between the characters, the life lesson about choice and decision, and basically I just love Ruta Sepetys' way of telling the story - no questioning that. Even though the ending doesn't really resolve anything, I'm fully satisfied with it and it makes me happy :)

The longest part of this review will be about the characters, because it's the reason I'm giving this book a 5 out of 5 rating, and made it become one of my favorite books this year. There's plenty of characters in this book and I have no reason to not love most of them. This is going to be long, so let me just make a list:
  • My first favorite character has to be Cokie (who I didn't even get to mention in the plot summary, because he doesn't really play a huge part in the plot) - he is probably the most sincere character in this book. The best scene is when Josie turned 18. His birthday gifts are never fancy but always meaningful. And for her 18th birthday, Cokie got her an aluminum thermos and a map. A map which he draw the route for Josie to go to college - because he so believe that Josie is capable of doing so. The route is over fifteen hundred miles long, so Cokie assumed she'll need coffee - thus the thermos is needed. I have tears in my eyes as Josie cried while hugging the thermos ;___;. Cokie even gave money he won from gambling for Josie to pay her tuition fees. I love you, Cokie ♥♥ (his nickname is so cute, too) These are some memorable quotes from Cokie~♥
"Now, don't let fear keep you in New Orleans. Sometimes we set off down a road thinkin' we're goin' one place and we end up another. But that's okay. The important thing is to start. I know you can do it. Come on, Josie girl, give those ol' wings a try."
"Let me tell you something 'bout those rich Uptown folk," said Cokie. "They got everything that money can buy, their bank accounts are fat, but they ain't happy. They ain't ever gone be happy. You know why? They soul broke. And money can't fix that, no sir. My friend Bix was poor. Lord, he had to blow that trumpet ten hours a day just to put a little taste in the pot. Died poor, too. You saw him, Jo, with that plate on his chest. But that man wasn't soul broke."
  • Second favorite is Willie Woodley, the madam. At first I didn't really expect to like her, because, obviously, she's the madam. But as the story goes, I realized that she cared so much for Josie. She has such a cold exterior, but it seems like she's a softy on the inside. By the end of the book we get to know a little bit of Willie's life history. She respects people who are loyal to them, and she treated them the best way she can. There's also a part where she was called 'wicked stepmother with the fairy godmother heart', which I think totally suit her personality.
"There was no 'Miss Woodley.' There was Willie. Willie was about life, and she grabbed it by the balls. Y'all know that. She loved a stiff drink, a stiff hundred, and she loved her business. And she didn't judge nobody. She loved everyone equal - accountants, queers, musicians, she welcomed us all, said we were all idiots just the same."
  • My third favorite character is Patrick Marlowe ♥♥♥ Such a shame he doesn't show up as much, because I instantly fell in love with his character from the early pages. He's so funny, witty, charming, and he plays the piano too (plus he loves books). What more could I ask from a guy? I absolutely love it when he teases Josie in a sweet way. Unfortunately we don't get to see him that much in the middle of the story; and at the end he went away ;__; There's also a twist to his character, which I didn't expect - at all.
  • Of course I cannot exclude our main character from this list: Josie Moraine. She's such a strong character and I totally love her remarks - especially when men are asking when will she started working like her mother. I absolutely love her character development in the story, when she was pushed into a corner and doesn't have much choice. She's sweet but can be lethal in urgent situations (like pointing a gun to a person who suddenly showed up). Anyways, you should read the book to know more about the character, I don't want to give too much away ;)
"So that's what I told her. The lie came out so easily it frightened me. I used to feel sick to my stomach when I heard Mother tell a lie. How can you do it? How do you live with yourself? I used to wonder. But here I was, lying to Miss Paulsen and smiling while doing it."
  • And the last, I have to mention Charlotte Gates - the rich and smart girl who goes to Smith. Even though she only showed up for a little bit in this book, she's a true friend indeed. When Josie decided to spill all her life's secrets that she's been so ashamed about, Charlotte's reply almost made me cry.
"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." — Sir Francis Bacon 
So, I have to say it's really tough for me to write a book review about this one - because there's so many things going on and I can't possibly just write about it all here. But trust me, I absolutely enjoyed this book, not for the historical factors or the many plotlines, more because of the amazing characters and, obviously, the addictive writing.  The story also sparks some thoughts about life, choices, and decisions as I read. I absolutely can't wait for Ruta Sepetys to write another book, I want to fall in love with the characters she write all over again. And lastly, sorry for the long review - I just have to write down my feels for this book :') For those of you who enjoyed Between Shades of Gray, you should read this one too - because you might like it as well ;)

Ruta Sepetys, when's your next book coming?
by.stefaniesugia♥ .

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