cover image Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

Nina LaCour. Flatiron, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-81046-5

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.)