Recommended Reads: ‘Out of the Easy’ a gripping tale with characters you’ll care about
Can you have family outside of your blood family? Do you drive your destiny? This book answers these questions as the character Josie turns 18 years old in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950. Her mother is a prostitute, and completely irresponsible. Her father is unknown. How did Josie find her way, growing up in the Big Easy? And will she find her way out of the Big Easy, and into Smith College, which is her greatest aspiration despite the life she was born into. Can she design her destiny? This is a story of family, identity, and overcoming one’s circumstances.
Josie’s mother, Louise, is about as despicable as you can imagine. There is great empathy for a 14-year-old Josie who declared her hatred for her mother. Then one of her closest friends, Charlie says, “Don’t hate her, Jo. 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.”
You will embrace and cheer for Josie, who is a strong, smart, independent and self-motivated character. As the author said in an interview about this character, “I think I write what I wish I could become, characters I admire, with qualities I wish I had.”
Josie is surrounded by an amazing cast of characters, each with a side story of his or her own, and each impact Josie’s life in different ways. The author said in an interview, “the city of New Orleans was really conducive to creating this eccentric rich cast of characters, because the city itself is beautiful and tragic and complex at the same time and so the people that I interviewed, they were so full of color and flair, that it was easy to imagine and then set the book in a brothel. The character of Willie Woodley, the madam in “Out of the Easy,” was based on Norma Wallace. Norma was a notorious French Quarter madam in the ’40s and ’50s and I was so fortunate to be able to hear Norma’s voice; late in life, Norma thought ‘I need to capture my story’ so she sat down with a tape recorder and probably a bottle of booze and started recording her life story. Well, a man in new Orleans had these cassette tapes.” Willie is central to Josie’s life, and to so many others in the book.
Josie works in a bookstore and loves to read. The central question of this novel surfaces with a customer who buys Dickens and Keats from Josie. Their discussion about David Copperfield concerns the quote, “Decisions, they shape our destiny. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else these pages must show.” Josie and the kind customer are amazed that someone could overcome such suffering and poverty to finally achieve happiness. Can it be done in real life? Can you be the author of your own destiny? Adding to the intrigue of the Quarter, the kind customer is found murdered the next day, and now this mystery has to be solved.
And what was the inspirational quote in the other book the customer bought? “I love you the more in that I believe you have liked me for my own sake and for nothing else.” – Keats
This author tells a gripping story about characters you will care about. The ways that the characters reach out to help each other, will touch you. How is the murder resolved? What other crimes are committed? And in the end will Josie, or anyone else, make it out of the Easy?
Thereby hangs a tale . . . .
Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager, wedding officiant and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. She’s enjoyed living in Edmonds for over 20 years