February 4, 2013
Out of the Easy
First sentence: "My mother's a prostitute."
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Release date: February 12, 2013
Review copy provided by my place of employment.
The first sentence says it all: for most of her nearly 18 years, Josie has grown up in the New Orleans French Quarter, the daughter of a prostitute, with all that implies. Except, she hates the implications of it all: the catcalls from the boys, the assumptions that she'll just hop into bed with anyone, just because her mother does. Josie has done all that she could to separate herself from that world: she works at a local bookstore, living upstairs. She does clean the whorehouse -- she had an agreement and a friendship with the owner, Willie -- coming in the early mornings. But she has bigger dreams:of getting out of New Orleans, of getting into Smith College, of making a real life for herself.
But, her life -- and her mother, who is one of the worst I've seen in a while -- is conspiring against her. There's been a murder, which Josie's mother is implicated. There's an incident with the mob. There are boys she likes. And the owner of the bookstore whose health is failing. There's the fact that she can't get a reference for Smith. All are making her question her decision to get out. Maybe she's just a daughter of a New Orleans whore, and she should just embrace it.
Even though I've read Sepetys's first book, I didn't quite know what to expect from this one. New Orleans is such a vastly different place than Stalin's Russia. But, upon reflection, maybe there are similarities. Both Lina and Josie are trapped by circumstances out of control. And even though Lina's circumstances are more life-threatening (even though Josie always carries a gun; the French Quarter is not exactly a safe place for a young girl, even in the 1950s), Josie is just as trapped, just as desirous of freedom as Lina is.
And Josie is such a great character to root for; I wanted her to get out, to succeed. I felt her heartbreak, her anger, her hope. Which is really the mark of a great writer. Sepetys knows how to engage the reader, to write in a way that makes these characters fully dimensional. And even though her subjects are not pretty, her writing is gorgeous.
It's not as heartbreaking as her first novel, but it is just as amazing.