Out of the Easy/Ruta Sepetys

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The dignity of Ruta Sepetys is telegraphed from afar. It's in the books she writes—the international sensation Between Shades of Gray and now (coming in February 2013) Out of the Easy.  It's plain as day in her interviews, her commentary, her web site, her broadcast segments.  And if you ever have the chance to meet her (and I'm lucky; I briefly have), it's all right there in her face.  Ruta isn't a writer simply and only because she wants to be a writer.  She's a writer because she has something to say.

She's a writer, too, who knows the value of deep research—the liberating and liberalizing ways that rooting around in both personal and world history, in the files of the Soviet secret police and the murky streets of the historic French Quarter, in old maps and and the catalogs of Smith College, in the workings of all kinds of watches will, when pondered long enough, when tacked and quilted, generate story.  Research, particularly historic research, can be hard to master and harder to contain.  Ruta makes it look easy.  What she knows never trumps the many things that she imagines.

I spent today lying in a steamy east-coast house, circa 2012, reading Ruta's delectable new circa 1950s New Orleans novel.  Often I forgot just where I actually was as I slid into the dream, drifted in and out of the old bookstore (and the chatter, always smart, about books), had a good old walkabout in the brothel (equal parts gaudy and opulent), and fell in with Easy's seventeen-year-old heroine, Josie.  Josie has found her way despite her mother's poor profession, witless selfishness, and fancy for bad men.  She's a spitfire, an I'll-do-it-myself-er, a girl walking around with a pile of lies but without a dent in her actual morality.  She's the favorite of the wily, big-hearted madam known as Willie.  She's loved by two boys—Patrick, her co-worker at the bookstore, and Jesse, a beautiful boy with a mysterious past—not to mention a whole lot of poor souls who make her tattered life rich.  Josie's mother's on the lam and Josie's in trouble, and there will be murder, mayhem, lies, sacrifice, and choices before this story is through.  There'll be a whole lot of color and New Orleans twang, a rip-roaring cast, and, always, Ruta's intelligent sense of humor, not to mention instructions from Dickens.

Easy, which is a Tamra Tuller book, which is to say a Philomel book, which is to say the product of a remarkable book family headed by Michael Green, sounds spectacularly like then (the details are so right, their webbing-in so clever), but it resonates for now.  It's going to generate a whole lot of book love when it debuts next winter.  


bermudaonion said...

I'm so excited because Ruta is coming near me on the 15th! I can't wait to get this book!

Lilian Nattel said...

That sounds like so much fun!

Joyce Lansky said...

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Ruta's newest book and thoroughly enjoyed it!


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