Tuesday 31 May 2022

Book Review: Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour

Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour book cover

AD* | 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, pull them apart again and again. When Sara's old life catches up to her, upending everything she thought she wanted just as Emilie has finally gained her own sense of purpose, they must decide if their love is more powerful than their pasts.

Yerba Buena is a slow-burner of a novel, gradually drawing you into the lives of the two main characters. 

Sara and Emilie each have their own demons and challenges to face. From the ghosts of the past to the difficulties of the present, neither has an easy life. However, when they are together, it becomes all too easy to escape the bad and enjoy only the good - for a little while, at least. 

The story is told in a fragmented style, mixing past and present in a way that is quite disjointed. As the girls' lives slowly begin to twine together, their past also blends until in some ways, it's difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. It can be quite hard to get into the story but it's worth persevering, as the story definitely grows on you once you become used to the writing style. 

At its core, this is a love story; an inexorable journey from that first meeting to the rest of forever. However, what's unique is that it isn't written to feel like a love story. There's no budding romance, no romantic cliches, and no obvious happily ever after. Instead, it's gritty, down-to-earth, and refreshingly real. 

Emilie and Sara are complex, flawed individuals. Both bear scars from their past, as well as damage that isn't quite so easy to see at first glance. Despite their struggles, though, they are both stronger than they realise. Sara is a fighter, doggedly determined to escape the skeletons in her closet. Emilie grows tired of being a passive spectator in her own life and at long last, finds the passion she needs to reignite her own drive and determination. These young women find a little bit of themselves in each other and together, they might just have the power to overcome the past once and for all. 

Yerba Buena is a rich, complex literary novel that will give you plenty of food for thought.

Rating: 3 stars

Yerba Buena is available to buy now.

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading this book? Let me know in the comments below! 

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