In LaCour’s solid adult debut (after the YA novel Watch Over Me), two Los Angles women navigate the uncertainties of their 20s and their complicated pasts. Sara Foster ran away from home at 16 after her girlfriend died under mysterious circumstances that may have involved Sara’s family. Now she’s a bartender whose signature cocktails are in high demand at the popular restaurant Yerba Buena. Emilie Dubois, who is part Creole, spent her early life as the “steady daughter” and “good girl,” but with a sister in and out of rehab, her parents getting divorced, and her grandmother dying, she begins to search for her authentic self rather than continue passing as white and straight. After Emilie takes a job designing flowers at Yerba Buena, she embarks on an affair with the married owner, Jacob Lowell, while Sara occasionally takes home women from the bar. Though the chemistry is palpable between Emilie and Sara, the story turns out to be less about a love affair than what the women each need for themselves. Sometimes the alternating points of view between Sara and Emilie feel interchangeable, but LaCour writes with beauty and clarity about how a relationship is not a substitute for the characters’ mutual need to love themselves. This doesn’t break new ground, but it gets the job done. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Yerba Buena
A Most Anticipated Book (Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The Washington Post, TIME, Vulture, Elle, NBC News, Good Housekeeping, Parade, Electric Lit, BuzzFeed, BookRiot, Bustle, Goodreads, LGBTQ Reads, Autostraddle, PopSugar, PureWow, Veranda Magazine, Bookish, The Nerd Daily, East Bay Express, The Lesbian Review)
“Unfold[s] like the slowly blossoming flavors of a well-made drink… The book is a sensory feast, teeming with vivid detail…LaCour’s writing shines…Bitter and salty and sweet all at once.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A study of complex, modern love…Yerba Buena is observed with a cool, generous eye in spare, quiet prose that expertly illuminates the trauma that Sara and Emilie are both wrestling with, as well as their hope and healing…Beautiful character-driven fiction that lingers like a perfectly mixed cocktail.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Sweet and bitter and full...[LaCour] understands her characters so well that you can sit back, sink in and trust the story."
“A lesbian love story for the ages.”
“A Carol for our times, Yerba Buena is a sweetly sweeping love story about two women trying to find themselves in the middle of Los Angeles.”
“A poignant, beautiful novel.”
—The Washington Post
“A love story as vibrant as its cover…A perfect beach read: Two women meet at a fashionable restaurant known as—you got it—Yerba Buena, and there embark on a journey of addiction, self-discovery, renewal, and, perhaps, real commitment.”
“The sumptuousness of the prose and its reflections of Southern California—its food, its drink, its intimacies—will make you want to take a long, slow drive along an ocean vista.”
“A remarkable journey featuring two aching women on perpendicular paths towards a crossroads of connection.”
“[A] slow-burn, heartfelt story.”
“LaCour’s beautiful and often heartbreaking books have destroyed and delighted me many times over. In fact, her incredibly insightful queer YA novels never let me down and so I am definitely quivering with anticipation for Yerba Buena…This seems like a gloriously melancholy book to read as I hide from the cold outside world, snuggled on my sofa under a warm, fuzzy blanket. Can’t wait.”
"A heartbreakingly beautiful story about two lost women who somehow find each other and in doing so find themselves."
“A will-they, won’t-they that’s both quietly devastating and deeply relatable for anyone who’s struggled to decide what they can risk for love.”
“A tender and at times heartbreaking love story between two women finding their way in life…A delicately devastating and beautifully perceptive journey.”
“Romantic… LaCour examines love and finding one's life purpose.”
“Atmospheric, lush, and distinctly Californian.”
—San Diego Union-Tribune
“Quietly powerful…Brilliantly observed… Sara and Emilie are such fully realized characters that by the end of the novel, you will feel as though you’ve spent time with cherished friends. Bursting with emotionally resonant moments and vivid details of LA neighborhoods, Yerba
Buena is a remarkable story of queer love and childhood trauma, addiction and forgiveness, family legacies and new beginnings.”
—BookPage (boxed and starred review)
“Lyrical and ultimately hopeful. Yerba buena—the 'good herb,' which is also the name of the restaurant where Sara and Emilie meet—carries the reader through the pain and symbolizes a better future.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“LaCour writes with beauty and clarity about how a relationship is not a substitute for the characters’ mutual need to love themselves.”
“The rawness of Sara’s and Emilie’s struggles come through, making for a heartfelt story. A brisk, plot-driven, and entertaining novel.”
"Yerba Buena is at turns decadent and spare, intimate and elusive, as balanced, fragrant, and masterfully crafted as a fine cocktail in the hands of someone mysterious and beautiful. This book is a precious thing."
—Casey McQuiston, New York Times bestselling author of One Last Stop
“Nina LaCour’s Yerba Buena is a love story for our time. I so admired its truth and candor, the lilting prose and the two compelling protagonists, Sara and Emilie, whose lives weave, break and bend towards each other until the novel’s moving and deeply satisfying conclusion. Yerba Buena is an absolute joy to read.”
—Tara Conklin, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Romantics
“Nina LaCour’s writing is so evocative that it’s hard to put down (I read Yerba Buena in one day). The attention to detail allows you to be transported—you can just about taste the food, be in the rooms, and even feel the feelings the characters are experiencing.”
—Julia Turshen, New York Times bestselling author of Simply Julia and more cookbooks
“Tactile, tender and intimate, Yerba Buena is a gorgeous, sensory exploration of life’s richest moments. Led by two soulful and complex women, it is a joy to read.”
—Charlotte McConaghy, New York Times bestselling author of Once There Were Wolves and Migrations
"Yerba Buena tells two lovely, tangled, gorgeously-detailed coming-of-age stories. It is a novel full of heartbreak and hope, food and flowers, complication and compromise, love and loss and lessons learned the hard way. But especially love."
—Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of One Two Three and This Is How It Always Is
“Yerba Buena is not just a book to read; it’s a story to revel in, so full is it of sensual pleasures—food and flowers, cocktails and home decor—all of it enveloping a sexy, magnetic and unputdownable love story of two young women fighting their way past family demons and toward each other. This is Nina LaCour’s best work yet.”
—Gayle Forman, New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay and We Are Inevitable
“Such a sublimely crafted narrative about the truths our hearts hold and the lies it tells to protect us, of the paths that carve us and the ones we carve for ourselves, of reckonings and reconcilings. Nina LaCour has written an affecting, gratifying, and memorable love letter to beginnings in the way only Nina LaCour can. Gorgeous.”
—Courtney Summers, New York Times bestselling author of Sadie
Sara Foster flees home at age 16 and eventually ends up as a popular (if slightly mysterious) bartender at the Los Angeles restaurant Yerba Buena. When directionless undergraduate Emilie Dubois takes a job arranging flowers at the restaurant , the connection between her and Sara sizzles. But can love conquer all, including the troublesome past? A first adult novel from Printz Award-winning YA author LaCour; with a 150,000-copy first printing.
Their lives upended by drugs, two young women struggle to find love—and their own true selves—as they navigate the complexities of adulthood.
Having lost her mother and with her father shirking his parental duties most of the time, teenage Sara Foster feels a deep obligation to care for her younger brother, Spencer. But in the wake of yet another traumatic drug-related tragedy that hits uncomfortably close, Sara runs away to Los Angeles in hopes of rebooting her life. On a parallel track, Emilie Dubois too has witnessed the devastation of drugs up close, as her sister, Colette, struggles to stay clean. Emilie and Sara have their respective burdens to bear—and baggage to unpack—when they meet at Yerba Buena, a high-end LA restaurant. They cannot deny the chemistry they share, but the past has a way of rearing its ugly head when least expected. Both Sara and Emilie meet and diverge again, trying to understand the contours of their lives and if they have room for each other in the vast messiness. Yerba Buena, the mintlike herb with healing properties, is a recurring motif in the novel. “It helps you fall out of love. It tells your future, so you can bear more easily the days in between. Whatever you need it to. It’s all about your intentions,” a character says of the herb’s gifts. One occasionally wishes LaCour subscribed more to the “show rather than tell” philosophy, as the narrative rather clinically focuses on unfolding events. There are weighty themes here about a variety of societal challenges, drugs being just one of them, but they are underexplored and remain too understated. Nevertheless, the rawness of Sara’s and Emilie’s struggles come through, making for a heartfelt story.
A brisk, plot-driven, and entertaining novel.