Central Places: A Novel
Audrey Zhou is living her dream life in New York. With a successful job and soon to marry her dashing fiancé Ben, she returns home to Illinois to introduce Ben to her parents. Upon arriving in her hometown, Audrey becomes tense, with flashbacks of her fraught high school days and strained relationship with her demanding mother coming into focus. Audrey has been hesitant to reveal her past to Ben, and as they run into her old friends, she is forced to revisit shameful moments and feelings of being an outsider.
Central Places is beautifully written, and I was absorbed in Cai’s ability to beautifully describe places and emotions. Main character Audrey is hard to root for, as she deliberately makes a mess of her relationships and is self-sabotaging. Although she was unlikeable, I found myself drawn to the story and hoping that Audrey would recognize that she was responsible for her own happiness. So many parts of the story made me disappointed in Audrey, yet the novel felt raw and genuine. I enjoyed Delia Cai’s writing style and hope there is more to come from this debut novelist!