Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys in ARC form is like getting to skip the line at an amusement park when the line is five months long. So even though the marshmallow test suggests that good things come to those who can wait, I devoured the book the moment it reached my hands.
Although it might be bad form to compare Out of the Easy with Between Shades of Gray, I was astounded by the similarities between the two, so I’ll just get the inevitable comparisons out of my system before I buckle down and review Easy on its own merit:
There’s a lot to like about Out of the Easy: mystery, intrigue, a strong cast of well-developed characters (even the love interests, a “bad boy” mechanic and a sensitive pianist who might lean more towards Tchaikovsky than Rossini, and especially Josie, who wins over formidable bordello owner, Willie, with her streetwise attitude and superior bar-tending skills). But the real star of the story is New Orleans, The Big Easy herself. She’s gaudy, seedy, unapologetic, and rouged with excitement and danger; the perfect backdrop for a murder, an ambitious girl who wants out, and more gangsters and scarlet women (well, green in Dora’s case) than you can shake a large wad of cash at. In other words, she’s the perfect adversary for Josie.
If you’re scandalized about the premise, the most distasteful thing about Easy isn’t what goes on at Willie’s brothel, it’s how small, selfish, and mean people can be, respectable or otherwise. That’s not exactly comforting, but it makes Josie’s triumphs all the more worth savoring.
So naturally, I was disappointed when Easy abruptly ends, because the buildup was fantastic and there was a lot on the line. The loose bits are resolved off screen, like when Ms. Paulsen’s last minute involvement secures Josie’s future and when Josie comes clean to her respectable friend Charlotte after lying about her family situation. In light of such a great journey, the ending just seemed a bit too easy.