In West Mills
For readers of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and The Turner House, an intimately told story about a woman living by her own rules and the rural community that struggles to understand her.Azalea “Knot” Centre is determined to live life as she pleases. Let the people of West Mills say what they will; the neighbors’ gossip won’t keep Knot from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. And yet, Knot is starting to learn that her freedom comes at a high price. Alone in her one-room shack, ostracized from her relatives and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home. Otis Lee is eager to help. A lifelong fixer, Otis Lee is determined to steer his friends and family away from decisions that will cause them heartache and ridicule. After his failed attempt as a teenager to help his older sister, Otis Lee discovers a possible path to redemption in the chaos Knot brings to his doorstep. But while he’s busy trying to fix Knot’s life, Otis Lee finds himself powerless to repair the many troubles within his own family, as the long-buried secrets of his troubled past begin to come to light.Set in an African American community in rural North Carolina from 1941 to 1987, In West Mills is a magnificent, big-hearted small-town story about family, friendship, storytelling, and the redemptive power of love.

In West Mills Details

TitleIn West Mills
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
ISBN-139781635573404
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Cultural, African American

In West Mills Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    “Why you so set on bein lonely, Knot.” Otis Lee Loving, Knot’s best friend and neighbor asks the question, but I’m not sure I ever found an answer here, and I’m not sure that Knot knew the answer herself. But she does know enough about herself to make decisions that we may not agree with, but are better for some like the two babies she gives up. “I woulda kept that child if I didn’t care ‘bout her.” Azalea Centre known as Knot is a teacher living in a small place called West Mills in NC in a sha “Why you so set on bein lonely, Knot.” Otis Lee Loving, Knot’s best friend and neighbor asks the question, but I’m not sure I ever found an answer here, and I’m not sure that Knot knew the answer herself. But she does know enough about herself to make decisions that we may not agree with, but are better for some like the two babies she gives up. “I woulda kept that child if I didn’t care ‘bout her.” Azalea Centre known as Knot is a teacher living in a small place called West Mills in NC in a shack with her moonshine and her books. She is living her life on her own terms, spending her time with men, drink and books, especially Dickens, her father’s favorite and now hers and spending time at Goldie’s Barn to drink more. It’s hard to like Knot most of the time, pushing away people who love her, leaving her job, but I always wanted her to be okay, just as Otis Lee did. This isn’t just Knot’s story, but it’s Otis Lee Loving’s story and the story of others in this black community in rural NC spanning several decades starting in 1941. It’s a story where there are secrets that need to be and are revealed even though Otis thinks that “Sometimes it’s best to keep ‘em locked inside. Best for everybody sometimes.” Its a story of friendship, of love, of complex relationships of some independent women defying others who don’t understand them. There’s a lot of sadness here caused by the actions of flawed characters, but there’s also a lot of caring and remorse and forgiveness. An affecting story.I received an advanced copy of this book from Bloomsbury USA through NetGalley.
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    Hats off to debut author *De’Shawn Charles Winslow*!!!!! I’m memorizing his name!!! *De’Shawn Charles Winslow* is sooooooo talented!!! His writing is indisputable, unequivocal, irrefutable, genuine, infallible, delicious, intimate, witty, moving, heartwarming & heartbreaking, imaginary, soothing, compassionate, gratifying, nuanced, beautiful, and hunky-dory ENJOYABLE!!!!!*Azalea Centre*....who everyone calls **Knot**....loves .....( in no particular order), moonshine, men, and great literatu Hats off to debut author *De’Shawn Charles Winslow*!!!!! I’m memorizing his name!!! *De’Shawn Charles Winslow* is sooooooo talented!!! His writing is indisputable, unequivocal, irrefutable, genuine, infallible, delicious, intimate, witty, moving, heartwarming & heartbreaking, imaginary, soothing, compassionate, gratifying, nuanced, beautiful, and hunky-dory ENJOYABLE!!!!!*Azalea Centre*....who everyone calls **Knot**....loves .....( in no particular order), moonshine, men, and great literature!!!!She’s a woman to reckon with - or not!!! She marches the beat of her own drum!!!! She’s Independent & defensive. Others in the community struggle to understand her! She pushes people away who love her. Why does anyone do that? “West Mills”, is a small town in North Carolina.This story takes place between 1941 to 1987.... set in an African American community. Poor black town -The characters you’ll meet are endearing- lovable - flawed & deeply human. Wounds need to be healed- secrets need to get revealed - and the relationships between friends & families will deepen!!!! This book will be released in stores in June, 2019! I’m sure it’s going to be one of the best books of the year. This novel wouldn’t be a risk to go into it blind! It’s less than 300 pages - can be read in a couple of sittings....It pack-filled with interesting characters who are stubborn - and loving.“Maybe Knot was right when she said people don’t always need to know everything ‘bout everybody”. Thank you Nicole - and Bloomsbury Publishing for this delightful book to read!
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    What a debut!! Everyone should put De'Shawn Charles Winslow on their list of authors to watch!This wasn't on my radar at all, but Buzzfeed listed this as a must read for summer and the short synopsis was all I needed to sell me. It was a delightful read (a shorter one too) that was simply just such a feel good book. Feel good, not because the characters had it easy (they most certainly didn't), but it was like coming home when I opened it each time. Azalea Centre (known as Knot), is a woman not What a debut!! Everyone should put De'Shawn Charles Winslow on their list of authors to watch!This wasn't on my radar at all, but Buzzfeed listed this as a must read for summer and the short synopsis was all I needed to sell me. It was a delightful read (a shorter one too) that was simply just such a feel good book. Feel good, not because the characters had it easy (they most certainly didn't), but it was like coming home when I opened it each time. Azalea Centre (known as Knot), is a woman not of her time. She doesn't feel the need to have a husband, do the whole housewife thing and fall into line. She much prefers drinking, being sassy and reading her books. It follows her life and those of her closest neighbors in the small town of West Mills, NC from the early 40s up until the late 80s. Some people found Knot's personality tiresome and grating, but I absolutely loved her! I found the issues she faced then, just as relevant today and that makes this book truly timeless. Her relationship with her neighbor, Otis Lee was something special. I enjoyed his soft spot for her and how the complexities of their relationship gave them comfort during troubling times. In this community, the love they had for one another always came through in the end, despite the hurt or feelings of resentment that materialized.I can't wait to read the next book from Mr. Winslow as this was truly, something special.
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  • Stacy Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    In West Mills is not a debut novel. It can’t be. From the first line of the novel, I knew I was in for a Southern adventure. What I didn’t anticipate was the familiarity of the journey. Azalea “Knot” Centre is the woman other women hate, and the woman men slap their thighs in tribute and regret as she passes. Even her arrival in West Mills left one citizen off-kilter for years. This is the magic of De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s storytelling: nothing about Knot is common or predictable. Her people, In West Mills is not a debut novel. It can’t be. From the first line of the novel, I knew I was in for a Southern adventure. What I didn’t anticipate was the familiarity of the journey. Azalea “Knot” Centre is the woman other women hate, and the woman men slap their thighs in tribute and regret as she passes. Even her arrival in West Mills left one citizen off-kilter for years. This is the magic of De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s storytelling: nothing about Knot is common or predictable. Her people, her interests, and her destiny seem one way, but Winslow carefully peels the layers of her truth in astonishing brevity. His word economy is outrageous! Few words but powerful imagery. Spanning from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, Winslow effortlessly captures traditions and sayings of small town America. The community’s indifference toward Knot is buffered by her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving. They are a platonic dynamic duo facing misconceptions and heartache, one decade at a time. I have recommended this book to my friends and will continue to do so. It is a breath-taking novel that deserves time on the big screen.
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    When you think of a historical family saga you probably start thinking about large estates, upstairs/downstairs intrigue, and melodrama. IN WEST MILLS delivers on the drama, but it removes the wealth and whiteness usually associated with this subgenre. It's long overdue and we're lucky that Winslow is one of the writers doing it.The central figures of this novel are Knot and Otis Lee, neighbors in a small North Carolina town for several decades of the 20th century. Knot is a single woman with a When you think of a historical family saga you probably start thinking about large estates, upstairs/downstairs intrigue, and melodrama. IN WEST MILLS delivers on the drama, but it removes the wealth and whiteness usually associated with this subgenre. It's long overdue and we're lucky that Winslow is one of the writers doing it.The central figures of this novel are Knot and Otis Lee, neighbors in a small North Carolina town for several decades of the 20th century. Knot is a single woman with a wild streak, Otis Lee is a quiet, happily-married man. But they share a connection to each other, especially when it comes to family secrets. I loved Knot. She's the kind of woman who would have been totally normal if she was living today, but refuses to let the small-minded ways of the town she lives in define her actions. She doesn't have an easy time of it. I would have loved to spend more time with Knot the way we do in the first half of the book, as time starts to move more quickly and we get new generations I lost a bit of the connection I had to her, but it was validating to see the long-term consequences of Knot's decisions.I also loved how this book takes place through such a long time period (from WWII well into the 80's) but most of the history you know is referred to only occasionally. This town is a world of its own and the people in it are aware of what's happening in the (mostly white) world but they prefer to stay just where they are and care about what's right in front of them.Winslow is very talented, it's a readable book that cares about its characters with prose that's skilled without being precious.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    (2.5) I read the first 162 pages out of 257. There are echoes of Toni Morrison (especially Song of Solomon) in this debut novel set in the small fictional town of West Mills, North Carolina. Wilson has crafted a memorable antiheroine in Azalea “Knot” Centre, who likes to pretend she doesn’t care what people think about her but actually cares deeply. Alcohol and sex are her two vices, and in the 1940s her two out-of-wedlock daughters are secretly adopted by other families in the town, such that s (2.5) I read the first 162 pages out of 257. There are echoes of Toni Morrison (especially Song of Solomon) in this debut novel set in the small fictional town of West Mills, North Carolina. Wilson has crafted a memorable antiheroine in Azalea “Knot” Centre, who likes to pretend she doesn’t care what people think about her but actually cares deeply. Alcohol and sex are her two vices, and in the 1940s her two out-of-wedlock daughters are secretly adopted by other families in the town, such that she can watch them grow up. The plot is initially slow-moving – it takes nearly half the length to introduce all the characters and deal with Knot’s first baby – but then leaps ahead to 1960 and further community entanglements. The rendering of the local dialect struck me as hokey, and none of the secondary characters seem worthy of sharing a stage with Knot.A favorite passage: “Knot was of the belief that some secrets, if not most, should remain as such. Sometimes the not knowing was a hell of a lot better”
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  • Never Without a Book™
    January 1, 1970
    Spanning from 1941 to 1987, twenty-six-year-old Ornery Azalea aka knot moves to a small black community in West Mills, North Carolina to get away from her family and to keep her drinking (her over love of moonshine) on the lo. Knot is living her best life with booze and books. Her male best friend Otis Lee lives next door with his gossip queen wife Pep. He is so sweet, loving he and keeps knot grounded. This isn’t just a story of Knot, but all those of the West Mills Community. I have a love hat Spanning from 1941 to 1987, twenty-six-year-old Ornery Azalea aka knot moves to a small black community in West Mills, North Carolina to get away from her family and to keep her drinking (her over love of moonshine) on the lo. Knot is living her best life with booze and books. Her male best friend Otis Lee lives next door with his gossip queen wife Pep. He is so sweet, loving he and keeps knot grounded. This isn’t just a story of Knot, but all those of the West Mills Community. I have a love hate relationship for Knot, she is stubborn, but lives by her own rules and Otis is so sweet and loving. This was such a great read, filled with laughter, love, community, friendship just everything you ask for a good book. I originally gave this book 4 stars but after some thought I see no reason why 5 out 5 isn’t fitting. This is the perfect book to add to summer reading list.Thank you, Netgalley & Bloomsbury Publishing, for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    "In October of '41, Azalea Centre's man told her that he was sick and tired of West Mills and of the love affair she was having with moonshine. Azalea - everyone called her Knot - reminded him that she was a grown woman." Determined to live life by her own terms, Knot makes the tough decisions and ignores the naysayers and gossip mongers. Despite the freedom that she seems to have in her choices one cannot overlook the pain that she must bear as a consequence. In West Mills is a journey not onl "In October of '41, Azalea Centre's man told her that he was sick and tired of West Mills and of the love affair she was having with moonshine. Azalea - everyone called her Knot - reminded him that she was a grown woman." Determined to live life by her own terms, Knot makes the tough decisions and ignores the naysayers and gossip mongers. Despite the freedom that she seems to have in her choices one cannot overlook the pain that she must bear as a consequence. In West Mills is a journey not only of one headstrong woman but a poignant rendering of the travails of the black community through the Great Migration, WWII and the Civil Rights Movement. It is a story about the secrets we keep, the pain they cause and the reckoning with the truth. Within these 272 pages Winslow manages to encapsulate the heart of true friendship and the ties that bind community together. In West Mills has been listed as one of the "Most Anticipated Literary Reads for Readers of Color 2019". It is De'Shawn Charles Winslow's debut.Special thanks to NetGalley, Bloomsbury USA and De'Shawn Charles Winslow for early access to this book.
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  • Karen Kay
    January 1, 1970
    I received this from Netgalley.com for a review. Knot is determined to live life as she pleases. The neighbors' gossip won't keep Knot from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. Alone in her one-room shack, ostracized from her relatives and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home. Wonderful story, good writing and characters, great read. Vaguely reminds me of Tenn I received this from Netgalley.com for a review. Knot is determined to live life as she pleases. The neighbors' gossip won't keep Knot from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. Alone in her one-room shack, ostracized from her relatives and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home. Wonderful story, good writing and characters, great read. Vaguely reminds me of Tennessee Williams stories. 4.75 ☆
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  • Brenda
    January 1, 1970
    “In West Mills” is a novel that spans almost 50 years beginning in 1941. The main character Azalea AKA “Knot” is ornery, fiercely independent, has many vices and refuses to be influenced or told what to do by anyone. A true firecracker, she tells it like it is. She enjoys her moonshine and living life on the edge. In a time where it is necessary to keep many skeletons in the closet, she keeps and hides many secrets. In the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s life events weren’t as accepted as they are today, p “In West Mills” is a novel that spans almost 50 years beginning in 1941. The main character Azalea AKA “Knot” is ornery, fiercely independent, has many vices and refuses to be influenced or told what to do by anyone. A true firecracker, she tells it like it is. She enjoys her moonshine and living life on the edge. In a time where it is necessary to keep many skeletons in the closet, she keeps and hides many secrets. In the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s life events weren’t as accepted as they are today, people still judged and scandal abounded. Knot has many loyal friends, my favorites were Otis Lee and Valley. They truly stood by her in spite of her faults and short comings. This story reflects the hard times in this small African American community and we follow the characters from a young age into their golden years. An excellent read.
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  • Stephanie Skees
    January 1, 1970
    A beautifully written novel, In West Mills, transports the reader to an African-American community filled with rich and complex relationships ranging from love, to blurred friendship riddled with a lot of grace and acceptance. Azalea "Knot" Centre is a captivating protagonist with her inability to be bossed around, resistance of a "socially acceptable" lifestyle and relatable love of moonshine. De'Shawn Charles Winslow successfully uses a mix of literary techniques to capture the reader's attent A beautifully written novel, In West Mills, transports the reader to an African-American community filled with rich and complex relationships ranging from love, to blurred friendship riddled with a lot of grace and acceptance. Azalea "Knot" Centre is a captivating protagonist with her inability to be bossed around, resistance of a "socially acceptable" lifestyle and relatable love of moonshine. De'Shawn Charles Winslow successfully uses a mix of literary techniques to capture the reader's attention and develop his character's narratives. Winslow deftly incorporates a diverse amount of relevant cultural topics within a 20th century context making his cast of characters worthy of their own individual case studies. A fast-paced storyline, In West Mills, is a joy to read and needs to be read en masse. I look forward to future works from Winslow and anticipate recommending the novel to many when it hits shelves.
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  • Tia
    January 1, 1970
    My rating is 4.5 stars Quick thoughts...I was hoping the end wouldn't lose me and it did. I just knew I was confused and there were more pages to turn, ugh! However, I am funny about endings. Especially when I feel like I've been hiking up a steep mountain for weeks, see the top is near, start running, to only realize that I have only two steps to get there and fall right off. I think that made sense of how I'm feeling. This book is one of a kind and I highly recommend! I doubt you'll be disappo My rating is 4.5 stars Quick thoughts...I was hoping the end wouldn't lose me and it did. I just knew I was confused and there were more pages to turn, ugh! However, I am funny about endings. Especially when I feel like I've been hiking up a steep mountain for weeks, see the top is near, start running, to only realize that I have only two steps to get there and fall right off. I think that made sense of how I'm feeling. This book is one of a kind and I highly recommend! I doubt you'll be disappointed. I love so many of these characters. I'm sure they'll be with me for quite some time.Proper review to follow
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  • Carla
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting book, with a wonderful spirited woman at the helm! Set at start in the 1940's in a small rural African American town of North Carolina, this book spans over 40 years. " Knot" won't be kowtowing to anyone. Being her own person also means isolation and abandonment from others in the community who see her as belligerent and self destructive. Being this type of person, lends itself to not having many close friends. She does however find a true one in Otis. Otis and Knot share a special h Interesting book, with a wonderful spirited woman at the helm! Set at start in the 1940's in a small rural African American town of North Carolina, this book spans over 40 years. " Knot" won't be kowtowing to anyone. Being her own person also means isolation and abandonment from others in the community who see her as belligerent and self destructive. Being this type of person, lends itself to not having many close friends. She does however find a true one in Otis. Otis and Knot share a special heartwarming platonic relationship that speaks of so many things that are a part of our life. Redemption, family, friends and love. I can see this book becoming a movie. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC for an honest review.
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  • Hannah Fenster
    January 1, 1970
    IN WEST MILLS is, at its core, an invitation: a welcome to the vast universe inside a small town, where personalities loom larger than buildings and relationship histories provide the backdrop for all other events. Smart and trusting of its readers, it slips you names and secrets so fast you’ll start to think you’ve always known them. Yes, this novel opens kitchens and porches to us with undeniable generosity—and it reveals the intimate experience of redemption that comes from long-honored memor IN WEST MILLS is, at its core, an invitation: a welcome to the vast universe inside a small town, where personalities loom larger than buildings and relationship histories provide the backdrop for all other events. Smart and trusting of its readers, it slips you names and secrets so fast you’ll start to think you’ve always known them. Yes, this novel opens kitchens and porches to us with undeniable generosity—and it reveals the intimate experience of redemption that comes from long-honored memory, long-term commitment, and long-standing love.
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  • LiteraryMarie
    January 1, 1970
    JUNE 4, 2019In West Mills"She love them damn books of hers more'n she love me." ~ 11%Did you ever read The Turner House? What about The Twelve Tribes of Hattie? Well, this new novel appropriately called In West Mills is of the same vein. It is an intimate story about a woman nicknamed "Knot" that no one understands but accepts as a member of their rural community. Sheeeeeit, Knot can barely understand herself but she is determined to live life as she sees fit. Oftentimes, that means moonshine, l JUNE 4, 2019In West Mills"She love them damn books of hers more'n she love me." ~ 11%Did you ever read The Turner House? What about The Twelve Tribes of Hattie? Well, this new novel appropriately called In West Mills is of the same vein. It is an intimate story about a woman nicknamed "Knot" that no one understands but accepts as a member of their rural community. Sheeeeeit, Knot can barely understand herself but she is determined to live life as she sees fit. Oftentimes, that means moonshine, literature and male company.Never mind the town gossip. It means nothing in comparison to Knot's family disowning her. Having no communication with her family back home and living alone in a shack, she relies on her neighbor, Otis Loving. But Otis is so eager to help that he unknowingly puts his wife and family second to Knot. This is oh-so-apparent thanks to the author's writing style. The story is set in a majority black community— dubbed West Mills—in rural North Carolina. It covers decades: 1941-1987 so readers can see how much time passes but little as nothing changed. And there is never a dull chapter.In West Mills deserves more credit than my review can offer. It brings about issues in the black community, the importance of communication and how we are quick to ASSume a situation. The storytelling is smooth and the main characters are well defined. My only negative feedback is the dialogue was hard to read in beginning. As chapters went on, I still was used to the language so it slowed my reading down a bit. However, the story wouldn't have been the same with formal words showing no southern accents. The author knew what he was doin'! Happy Debut Pub Day, De'Shawn Charles Winslow! In West Mills is now available.LiteraryMarie
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  • Maxie
    January 1, 1970
    The narrative takes place in a small African American community during the 1940s through the 1970s. Embedded in this delightful and inspiring read the audience is taken through the trials and tribulations of a strong, feisty African American young lady who suffers the inequalities of the American society. Knot touched me as a reader and a woman who experiences many of the doubts and negative impressions inflicted on young women who want to follow their own path rather than those forced upon them The narrative takes place in a small African American community during the 1940s through the 1970s. Embedded in this delightful and inspiring read the audience is taken through the trials and tribulations of a strong, feisty African American young lady who suffers the inequalities of the American society. Knot touched me as a reader and a woman who experiences many of the doubts and negative impressions inflicted on young women who want to follow their own path rather than those forced upon them. This impactful read has many life lessons that easily speaks to readers from that era but to the women of this generation. There are many facts and meaningful quotes to latch onto through the storyline. The story elements were well defined. In West Mills will leave the reader with a heavy heart and yet uplifted energy to press on regardless of the negative folks in one's ear.I highly recommend In West Mills and look forward to reading more from Ms. Charles Winslow.In West Mills was gifted by Netgalley for an honest opinion.
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  • Patricia Romero
    January 1, 1970
    Azalea Marie Centre aka Knot, a nickname from her father. We follow her story from 1941 to 1987. She has moved to the town of West Mills, North Carolina to teach school. Or to be out from under her family, either way, she's here and she's a complete mystery to the town folk of this African-American town.At a time when single women weren't swilling down moonshine on the regular nor enthralled with 19th Century literature and for goodness sakes, they weren't having one night stands with men.  She Azalea Marie Centre aka Knot, a nickname from her father. We follow her story from 1941 to 1987. She has moved to the town of West Mills, North Carolina to teach school. Or to be out from under her family, either way, she's here and she's a complete mystery to the town folk of this African-American town.At a time when single women weren't swilling down moonshine on the regular nor enthralled with 19th Century literature and for goodness sakes, they weren't having one night stands with men.  She is determined to do everything her way. And I thought that was a pretty selfish outlook. Her dear friend Otis Lee Loving and his wife have become her family. So when she gets into a bit of trouble, Otis is there to bail her out. Again and again. I did not care for her blase' attitude or her inconsideration of how her behavior hurt so many people. People who should have been taking care of their own families instead of cleaning up her messes.And once those secret messes come tumbling out of the closet, the damage may be too hard to repair. As her own family shuns her and her adopted family is tired of bailing her out of trouble, Knot may just have to own up to her bad behavior and face the consequences.A story of family, secrets and how the power of love can soothe even the ugliest of hurts.I can't believe this is a debut novel. The author's style is smooth and honest and he didn't try to make it pretty. It was life. Then and Now.I would highly recommend it!NetGalley/June 4th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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  • Elissa Sweet
    January 1, 1970
    From the first pages of In West Mills, which begins in 1941 and spans more than six decades, I knew that the main character Knot would be someone I’d follow to the ends of the earth. Stubborn, brilliant, dysfunctional and reckless, she barrels and crashes through her life, often with a jar of moonshine in her hands. At her side is a band of loving, sometimes exasperated friends who through the years become more like family, and whom she loves with her own kind of spiky fierceness. The novel quie From the first pages of In West Mills, which begins in 1941 and spans more than six decades, I knew that the main character Knot would be someone I’d follow to the ends of the earth. Stubborn, brilliant, dysfunctional and reckless, she barrels and crashes through her life, often with a jar of moonshine in her hands. At her side is a band of loving, sometimes exasperated friends who through the years become more like family, and whom she loves with her own kind of spiky fierceness. The novel quietly tackles ideas of American racial identity, sexuality, income inequality and motherhood, but instead of being a novel only about those issues, it is at its heart a story of community, chosen family, secrets and loyalty. I loved this book and can’t wait to see what De’Shawn Charles Winslow does next.
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  • James Beggarly
    January 1, 1970
    What a fun and warm book. Azalea ‘Knot’ Centre is an amazing character, who speaks her mind at all times and seems to love men, moonshine and Dickens equally. It’s wonderful to spend forty years with her, her lifelong friend Otis Lee and all their family and friends and the secrets they all try and keep from each other in a small town in North Carolina. A smart book that is told with great humor and heart.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    Following the lives of a group of people in North Carolina, West Mills, the book opens with a young woman telling her boyfriend to get out. Meet Azalea, nicknamed Knot, a hard drinking, hard loving woman, who wants to live her life, her way. Took a while for me to warm up to her. I definitely don't approve of many things she does,, but by books end, despite her abrasivesness, she won me over. The book takes place over four decades in this black community, set in the 1940s, a time when unwed preg Following the lives of a group of people in North Carolina, West Mills, the book opens with a young woman telling her boyfriend to get out. Meet Azalea, nicknamed Knot, a hard drinking, hard loving woman, who wants to live her life, her way. Took a while for me to warm up to her. I definitely don't approve of many things she does,, but by books end, despite her abrasivesness, she won me over. The book takes place over four decades in this black community, set in the 1940s, a time when unwed pregnancies were looked down on. When a family disowns one, there is no other choice but to live alone, or to make a new family from the friends one has. The other residents all have their own problems, but I came to pretty much like all of them. The characters have many secrets, secrets we know and others know, but not the one to which the secret applies. That creates the tension in the story and between the characters.As Knot says, "No more secrets. The longer they're kept, the more hurt they cause when they're set free.".There is plenty of hurt here, but support and friendship, loving and forgiveness, as well. A debut novel with a great deal of pathos and passion. Reminded me of a young Hurston or Morrison. ARC from Bloomsbury Publishing and Netgalley.
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  • Paula DeBoard
    January 1, 1970
    I honestly don't remember requesting this book from NetGalley, but suddenly it was in my queue--and I'm glad it was. In West Mills follows Azalea (Knot) Centre in all her wonderful complexity from the 1940s to 1980s, but it's also a deeply American tale of a rural Southern African American community entangling, falling apart, and coming back together in surprising ways. My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a chance to review an early copy of this book.
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  • Tabitha
    January 1, 1970
    Spanning about 50 years, "In West Mills" tells the story of Knot, a strong-willed, hard-drinking woman who just wants to live life on her own terms. It also tells the story of those around her -- Otis Lee and Pep, especially -- and the town itself. It's a simple story, but with great characters and plenty of layers.
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  • Anna Luce
    January 1, 1970
    DNF at 10%The protagonist sounds like a less nuanced version of Toni Morrison's Sula. There is this scene were Sula wondered what would happen if she were to scratch the skin of her lover and imagines that beneath a layer of skin there would be gold. Knot wonders what would happen if she were too peel a guy's eyebrows off...the word 'retorted' appears one too many times. This is probably another case of the 'it's me, not you'. Hopefully others will enjoy this more than I did.
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  • Kim
    January 1, 1970
    One of the things modernity has taken away is the concept of a neighborhood. One where people take care of each other through good times and bad. Where everyone knows everyone else and can recite your family tree through several generations. For better and for worse.This refreshing novel takes place in North Carolina and spans several decades, from 1941 to 1987. Life moves slowly. Gossip and judgement spread like wildfire. For some, a reputation is everything. But every town has one person who d One of the things modernity has taken away is the concept of a neighborhood. One where people take care of each other through good times and bad. Where everyone knows everyone else and can recite your family tree through several generations. For better and for worse.This refreshing novel takes place in North Carolina and spans several decades, from 1941 to 1987. Life moves slowly. Gossip and judgement spread like wildfire. For some, a reputation is everything. But every town has one person who doesn’t give a damn - and they would be the first to say so.In West Mills, that is Knot. Her reputation is horrendous. She frequents Miss Goldie’s Place, where she flirts with men to get drinks. Sometimes she takes them home. Sometimes she doesn’t. Her main man is Pratt, who seems to have a limitless tolerance for dealing with Knot’s bad behavior. Knot has a neighbor, Otis Lee, who looks after her. Little things, like making sure she eats well and is generally safe. Otis is married to Penelope (Pep to most) and they have a son named Breezy.After Pratt gives Knot a final ultimatum and leaves town, Knot discovers she is pregnant. She goes to Otis Lee for help. He finds a suitable couple in the town to take her baby and raise it as their own. As time passes, we see how the generations unfold. Make your judgements as you like. The reason I am not summarizing most of the plot is because that is the joy of this novel. The chapters are short enough to be digested quickly, like a quick visit before resuming your day. In fact, my only criticism is that the book is a bit short. I read the ebook from my library, which was under 175 pages. I wanted more. I started missing these people the minute I finished the booklI think most people consider Knot to be the protagonist, but I make the argument that it is really Otis Lee. We see most things through his eyes. His intentions are true. He is a good man with a huge heart. We see him as a man, a father, a grandfather, and a champion for his family. I may not have always agreed with his actions, but he is absolutely the hero of the book.What was most entertaining about the novel is the depth of the characters. These are people that stay with you, even when you’re not reading. I enjoyed the slow passage of time. It works with the idea of the American South where things move more slowly. I found myself reading in a (very bad) Southern accent. The language is exactly right for the time period.But the novel isn’t without drama. Because small towns carry lots of secrets. Some are common knowledge and others deeply hidden. But as my grandmother told me many years ago, it all comes out in the wash. What would be considered a bombshell in another story is here just dealt as another part of life. You adapt, you survive and you move on.In West Mills is a highly entertaining novel providing a glimpse of a bygone era. Considering the reputation that the American South now has (regardless of your point of view on that particular set of issues), it is important to know that time changes us all and heals most wounds. It is the idea of helpfulness and generosity that helps us move forward as human beings. It is a shame that just seems to have been misplaced in today’s never-ending negativity.
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  • Beverlee
    January 1, 1970
    Freedom is not an abstract concept that is limited to a chosen few based on wealth or social standing. The characters of In West Mills illustrate how this search is personal and long lasting and in some cases never realized. Azalea "Knot" Centre is a newly arrived schoolteacher in the small town of West Mills. In 1941, Knot is not the typical portrayal of teacher as a pillar of the community or a figure reminiscent of the Talented Tenth ideal. Knot is intelligent and she knows exactly what she w Freedom is not an abstract concept that is limited to a chosen few based on wealth or social standing. The characters of In West Mills illustrate how this search is personal and long lasting and in some cases never realized. Azalea "Knot" Centre is a newly arrived schoolteacher in the small town of West Mills. In 1941, Knot is not the typical portrayal of teacher as a pillar of the community or a figure reminiscent of the Talented Tenth ideal. Knot is intelligent and she knows exactly what she wants-namely to be left alone to indulge in alcohol and reading. Or simply put, to live a life of her choosing not conforming to expectations of her parents, boyfriend, or good friends. The story opens with a sort of breakup and a makeup to breakup on Knot's 27th birthday. What happens next is the perfect storm of perseverance, humor, and sadness. Winslow has written a novel that appeals to my sense of self. I love that Knot is not the so-called strong Black woman that goes along with what society says she must do-marry, mother, work hard to put everyone's needs above her own. Sometimes it's easy to go along to get along, but Knot rejects living this way to mixed results. A second theme woven throughout In West Mills is the necessity of keeping secrets. Otis Lee and Essie's relationship is first presented as sister/brother with her passing for white in New York (West Mills is in NC). Knot's parents are supposedly middle class, but there are secrets that can tarnish the image of perfection that's been crafted by "Dinah Bright"(Knot's mother) & Dr. Centre (her father). Penelope "Pep" is Otis Lee's wife and Knot's friend or is she tolerant of Knot and resentful of her closeness to Otis Lee (her best friend). Valor "Valley" is a good friend to Knot and cousin to Otis Lee and they both know a secret that would disrupt Otis Lee's life. It seems like a lot if going as I type this text, but this story moved at a quick pace. The writing is excellent because there's plenty of detail yet a little bit is not as explicit so the reader can use their imagination. I also like that no one is presented as pure good or pure evil, the residents of West Mills are realistic people. They exercise agency over their being which is not always assumed to be a regular occurrence in Jim Crow North Carolina (the South as a whole really). What makes In West Mills great to me is the portrayal of us as us-not a caricature of some sort. This story read as if I was there observing the events as they unfold, that alone is reason for a 5 star review.
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  • Joan Happel
    January 1, 1970
    A triumphant debut novel! Winslow’s novel begins in 1941 and spans 40 years in rural West Mills, North Carolina. Here we are introduced free-thinking Azalea “Knot” Centre, a young black women determined to live life on her own terms, drinking, sleeping around, and reading Dickens. She often clashes with her next door neighbor and best friend, sweet Otis Lee and his wife Pep. When Knot finds herself pregnant (twice) with a child she doesn’t want, it is Otis that comes to her aid, helping her find A triumphant debut novel! Winslow’s novel begins in 1941 and spans 40 years in rural West Mills, North Carolina. Here we are introduced free-thinking Azalea “Knot” Centre, a young black women determined to live life on her own terms, drinking, sleeping around, and reading Dickens. She often clashes with her next door neighbor and best friend, sweet Otis Lee and his wife Pep. When Knot finds herself pregnant (twice) with a child she doesn’t want, it is Otis that comes to her aid, helping her find someone in town to raise her daughters. Time and again, despite her protestations that she needs no one, Knot finds herself turning for help to her friends and neighbors in this tight knit community. Despite outside events such as WWII and the civil rights movement, West Mills and its inhabitants seem unaffected other than by their own relationships and problems. This insular community takes care of its own, whether they are fighting or loving. In West Mills is a beautifully crafted novel with lyrical prose and authentic dialect that will make you want to sit reading on a front porch, with a glass of sweet tea, as the memorable characters move about from page to page. This is a story of love and friendship and the many forms they can take. It was hard to say goodbye to Knot, Otis and the others. I highly recommend this novel!Thank you to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for the e-ARC
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  • Matthew Tett
    January 1, 1970
    This is an impressive debut and captures life in North Carolina, over a good few decades, in an evocative way. Winslow’s novel focuses largely on Knot Centre, real name Azalea, and her life in West Mills; her early, unplanned pregnancies; town gossip and secrets; and, what happens when you think everything’s fine but others don’t think the same.The early parts of this novel provide deep insight into the fairly complex character of Knot; her turbulent relationship with Pratt and her family, as we This is an impressive debut and captures life in North Carolina, over a good few decades, in an evocative way. Winslow’s novel focuses largely on Knot Centre, real name Azalea, and her life in West Mills; her early, unplanned pregnancies; town gossip and secrets; and, what happens when you think everything’s fine but others don’t think the same.The early parts of this novel provide deep insight into the fairly complex character of Knot; her turbulent relationship with Pratt and her family, as well as other people. As time goes on and her daughters grow up, Knot’s life becomes more difficult, as do the issues that become more prevalent in the story.In some ways, this captures life as it changes through the years. Having said this, I think Winslow tries a bit too hard. For example, some years are skipped over and readers find themselves flailing a little regarding what has happened and who it has happened to. Along some similar lines, it is quite a character-heavy read, meaning it can be tricky to remember who is who and what the relationships are.This is an enjoyable read and one that leaves one feeling irritated with Knot but also amazed at her forthright behaviour as a single black woman, and mother of two daughters who are given away, in the 1940s. It could, perhaps, be better if it slowed down a little. Despite this. Winslow’s West Mills is a place that has been effectively and visually created.,
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  • Kaye
    January 1, 1970
    There were so many things to love about this book, it's hard to know what to list first. I'll start with the main character, Knot Centre. Yes (a nod to the other readers who disliked her persona), she is self-absorbed, unyielding, and self-destructive -- but such an authentic voice!As someone who was born at the tail end of the 1940s, I am often annoyed by the perception that females from that era were submissive, altruistic saints. Many of the women I grew up around had *very* interesting histo There were so many things to love about this book, it's hard to know what to list first. I'll start with the main character, Knot Centre. Yes (a nod to the other readers who disliked her persona), she is self-absorbed, unyielding, and self-destructive -- but such an authentic voice!As someone who was born at the tail end of the 1940s, I am often annoyed by the perception that females from that era were submissive, altruistic saints. Many of the women I grew up around had *very* interesting histories, a la Knot. It was so good to see this portrayed accurately.The writing is memorable -- clean and truly unique. The relationships were powerful and realistic, for all that each was a one-of-a-kind pattern of interacting. Never a clicheThis is one of the most dynamic fictional renditions I've come across of the notion that "it takes a village" -- if by village you mean an oversized quasi-functional family, only some of whose members are related by blood; and if by "raise a child" you mean to alternately nurture and goad a fellow human being into evolving before reaching his or her 70s and 80s.In West Mills was a wonderful place to visit. Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for an advance readers copy.
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  • Lorrea - WhatChaReadin'?
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Stars!!The town of West Mills is a small close knit community. Everyone knows everyone and keeping your business to yourself isn't necessarily something that happens. Knot is a teacher in West Mills but when she is not teaching, she likes to drink her moonshine and enjoy time with her men friends. When her long time friend leaves town, Knot goes down the rabbit hole. And things for her take a change that no one expects coming. Knot's neighbor Otis Lee and his wife Pep are the only family Kno 3.5 Stars!!The town of West Mills is a small close knit community. Everyone knows everyone and keeping your business to yourself isn't necessarily something that happens. Knot is a teacher in West Mills but when she is not teaching, she likes to drink her moonshine and enjoy time with her men friends. When her long time friend leaves town, Knot goes down the rabbit hole. And things for her take a change that no one expects coming. Knot's neighbor Otis Lee and his wife Pep are the only family Knot has in West Mills. She trusts them with her secrets and they trust her with theirs. Will Knot's actions in her life keep the friendship going or will it tear them apart. Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book. This book grabbed my attention from the beginning and held it. The things that brought the rating down for me were the transitions between years toward the end of the book. It wasn't until you were a few pages into the chapter that you knew it was 5 or 10 years later. Knot is the kind of woman who does what she wants no matter what other people think about it. This story takes us from 1942 all the way through 1987. Telling the story and secrets of West Mills.
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  • Dominic
    January 1, 1970
    De'Shawn Charles Winslow's debut novel is the leanest of epic stories. At about 250 pages, Winslow is able to cover entire generations of two families without any unnecessary details. Yet when I finished it, I didn't feel like I missed out on anything. Lean, gorgeous.I actually found myself in the midst of some sudden tears during the first half when I realized that one of the two main protagonists, Knot Centre, is a sort of "Shug Avery" homage. While Knot Centre is *not* Alice Walker's joyous c De'Shawn Charles Winslow's debut novel is the leanest of epic stories. At about 250 pages, Winslow is able to cover entire generations of two families without any unnecessary details. Yet when I finished it, I didn't feel like I missed out on anything. Lean, gorgeous.I actually found myself in the midst of some sudden tears during the first half when I realized that one of the two main protagonists, Knot Centre, is a sort of "Shug Avery" homage. While Knot Centre is *not* Alice Walker's joyous character from The Color Purple, imagining that she *may be* filled me with a tender longing and closeness to the character that never abandoned me. She is a woman who is untethered by convention, and this strength is her flaw as well.The other protagonist is Otis Lee, and he is equally lovable and endearing. The depiction of his platonic friendship to Knot was one I won't ever forget. The theme of what truly makes a home was the one that resonated with me the most.
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