Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour – Book Review

Title: Yerba Buena (review copy)

Author: Nina LaCour

Genre/Themes: Adult contemporary literary fiction, Abuse, Sexual Assault, Romance, Drama, Family Dynamics, LGBTQ+

Blurb from Goodreads

When Sara Foster runs away from home at sixteen, she leaves behind not only the losses that have shattered her world but the girl she once was, capable of trust and intimacy. Years later, in Los Angeles, she is a sought-after bartender, renowned as much for her brilliant cocktails as for the mystery that clings to her.

Across the city, Emilie Dubois is in a holding pattern. In her seventh year and fifth major as an undergraduate, she yearns for the beauty and community her Creole grandparents cultivated but is unable to commit. On a whim, she takes a job arranging flowers at the glamorous restaurant Yerba Buena and embarks on an affair with the married owner.

When Sara catches sight of Emilie one morning at Yerba Buena, their connection is immediate. But the damage both women carry, and the choices they have made, will pull them apart again and again.

At once exquisite and expansive, astonishing in its humanity and heart, Yerba Buena is a love story about two women finding their way in the world.

My Review

I absolutely adore Nina LaCour’s writing. She has this amazing ability to delicately craft stories and characters that feel almost otherworldly but yet are utterly grounded in the gritty realities of everyday life.

Yerba Buena is LaCour’s first novel for adults and I loved it. It started off with this huge sucker punch of darkness that almost left me reeling and unable to breathe or find succour… but then the novel somehow grew smaller in scope, more intimate, and it took complete ownership of my heart. That’s the magic of LaCour’s writing talents.

The story follows two main characters, Sara and Emilie, from their teenage years through to late twenties. And oof does the novel pack a lot in.

Sara’s family life is an extremely broken and damaged one. Full of criminality and harshness from which she runs away age 16.

And Emilie’s life, though from the outside appears a good one… but she struggles so much with her sense of identity. Trying to fit in and mould herself to the wants and needs of everyone around her.

And through the years we follow these characters as they grow into their adult selves and figure out the answers to the questions that held sway over their life choices… which leads to their eventual meeting and their falling in love.

But things still don’t run smoothly because life never does.

Yet they are tethered together somehow so they fall into these cycles of blossoming and wilting, blossoming and wilting.

I guess you could say this novel is somewhat light on plot and is therefore more of a character study. But those types of novels are my personal favourites. I love stories that as a reader you sort of find yourself randomly falling into the lives of the main characters at the start and by the ending you feel that even though you may be closing the last page that these characters live on in unwritten chapters. To me that’s like life because in reality whenever we meet a new person they’ve had a life before us, and they’ll still have a life after us if we eventually go our separate ways (be it moving city, country, changing jobs etc etc).

The main characters of Sara and Emilie are so richly detailed that I felt I truly knew them as a reader. They felt so believable and authentic, and I keenly felt every single emotion they experience. Yerba Buena is a quiet book. It’s laden with characters that are hopelessly flawed but are all the more real for it. The storyline is at times deeply haunting and terribly dark, but there are these beautiful moments of joy and happiness. And somehow the darkness and the light blend together to create a truly beautiful and memorable slice of literary fiction.

Highly recommended

  • Publication Date: 31st May 2022
  • Publisher: Coronet

*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*

Other Works by Nina LaCour I’ve Reviewed

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