Synopses & Reviews
A young woman’s rootless past and uncertain future collide when she brings her white fiancé home to meet her Chinese immigrant parents, toppling her carefully constructed life in this vibrant, insightful debut from an exciting new voice in fiction.
Audrey Zhou left Hickory Grove, the tiny town in central Illinois where she grew up, as soon as high school ended, and she never looked back. She moved to New York City and became the person she always wanted to be, complete with a high-paying, high-pressure job and a seemingly faultless fiancé, Ben. But if she and Manhattan-bred Ben are to build a life together, in the dream home his parents will surely pay for, Audrey can no longer hide him, or the person she’s become, from those she left behind.
But returning to Hickory Grove is . . . complicated. Audrey’s relationship with her parents has been soured by years of her mother’s astronomical expectations and slights. The friends she’s shirked for bigger dreams have stayed behind and started families. And then there’s Kyle, the easygoing stoner and her unrequited crush from high school that she finds herself drawn to again. Ben might be a perfect fit for New Audrey, but Kyle was always the only one who truly understood her growing up, and being around him again after all these years has Old Audrey bubbling up to the surface.
Over the course of one disastrous week, Audrey’s proximity to her family and to Kyle forces her to confront the past and reexamine her fraught connection to her roots before she undoes everything she's worked toward and everything she's imagined for herself. But is that life really the one she wants?
“Burns with complexity and compassion . . . A fiercely narrated and deeply affecting novel about imperfect love, the willingness to try again, and generosity―to ourselves and to each other. Audrey’s unforgettable story of self-discovery will speak to anyone who has ever stood on the precipice of change, who has ever felt in between, and who has ever wondered if looking back is part of moving forward.” Elaine Hsieh Chou, author of Disorientation
“An incandescent debut shedding light on old friendships, half-forgotten selves, and ferocious longings past and present, Central Places is a revelation, disquieting and so very moving, and dazzling with insight.” R. O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
“Delia Cai fully renders the uneasy marriage between past and present. Central Places is honest about the strangeness and revelation of returning home.” Raven Leilani, New York Times bestselling author of Luster
“A sensitive, sharp-eyed, slyly funny story of venturing back into the foreign country that is your past—and discovering that you can never really shake the places and people that shaped you . . . This book will resonate with anyone who’s tried to navigate the confusing terrain of family tensions, lost friendships, or embarrassing memories of youth: in short, pretty much everyone.” Celeste Ng, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Our Missing Hearts