PUBLISHER: Philomel; Penguin Audiobooks
LENGTH: 352 pages; 9 hrs, 51 min
SOURCE: purchased (audio)
SUMMARY: Click here to read from author Ruta Sepetys’s website.
REVIEW: This story, on the surface, seems quite different from Sepetys’s acclaimed Between Shades of Gray. Looking more closely, there are thematic similarities that resonate with readers regardless of setting or background of the characters. Josie Moraine, just like Lina, must rely on herself to “be the change she wants to see in the world”. Even though Josie is already out of school, the story is indeed a coming-of-age tale that also touches on social class, betrayal, homosexuality, and guilt.
With a detailed and unique cast of characters, Sepetys drops readers into the seedier side of New Orleans in the early 1950s. Josie’s mother is a prostitute who is self-centered and neglectful of Josie. Josie has a “created family” of supporters through the brothel and the surrounding community. With one decision to omit part of the truth surrounding one of her bookstore customer’s recent visits, Josie finds herself tangled in a web of deception that leads to her mother abandoning her to leave with an abusive boyfriend, Josie considering the life of a kept women which she swore she would never live because of her own mother, and having to choose between her dream of a college education or saving her mother’s life while dooming her own.
The intricacies of character and social class in this book are commendable. Cokie, Willie, and Jesse are unique and provide the perfect contrast to Charlotte and Charlotte’s world. The story itself seemed a bit burdensome in its development. Once Josie keeps the information about the watch to herself, it seemed to take quite a while to discover exactly how that decision would impact her plans to join Charlotte at college. The climax is predictable and Willie’s ultimate rescue of Josie seemed unavoidable. However, the decisions and experiences that Josie must work through ring true and young women on the cusp of independence will identify with Josie’s willingness to take risks as well as her reservations about venturing into new territory.