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In West Mills

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,733 ratings  ·  360 reviews
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 moonshi
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,733 ratings  ·  360 reviews

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Angela M
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
“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
Elyse  Walters
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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!!
Diane S ☔
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
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 ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer Blankfein
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved the heartfelt debut, In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow. In this charming story about an African American family in North Carolina spanning from the 1940s – 1987, and the difficult struggles and complexities of love, we meet Knot. She has an unconventional lifestyle, always reveling in her freedom...READ MORE AT Book Nation by Jen ...more
Jessica Woodbury
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
Stacy Campbell
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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,
Never Without a Book
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel In West Mills, spans 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. Lol!

Her male best friend Otis Lee lives next door with his “Gossip Queen” wife Pep. Otis is such a sweet and loving person. He definitely keeps knot grounded. This n
♥ Sandi ❣
3.75 stars Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for a chance to read and review this book. Published June 4, 2019.

This was a first time read of anything by Winslow and I am not sure exactly what is was about this book, but I loved it. I think it was a mixture of things.

I am always amazed by a man that can write a woman's part so well. Even if it was a character like 'Knot' - rough and tumble, mouthy and more often with a drink in her hand than not. I liked the southern aspect of this
If ever a novel had an old soul, this is one. Reminiscent of Toni Morrison or Jesmyn Ward; Winslow has written a distinctly Southern novel with a lighter touch. In West Mills follows the lives and families of Azaela "Knot" Centre and Otis Lee in West Mills, NC. The story feels authentic and filled w/ imperfect people who have imperfect lives who both damage and care for each other. What felt different to me is that Winslow doesn't focus on the misery of his characters, he focuses on the kindness ...more
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
Darryl Suite
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Seriously. Seriously. Seriously. Where did this book even come from?? It was entertaining as hell. All it took was 2 pages and I was all in. Heartwarming, sassy, emotional, joyful, playful, melodramatic, tell-it-like-it-is, soulful, and secrets galore. And lemme tell you: the characters, the characters, the colorful set of characters. Knot, Otis Lee, Valley, Pratt, Pep, damn, I want more. The book is told in minimalist prose but every sentence is overflowing with attitude, warmth, and personalit ...more
"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 o
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-netgalley
I received this from 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
(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 ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it
A solid debut novel that skillfully unfolds the story of a small community over the course of almost 50 years. Knot, one of our main characters, is far and away my favorite part of this novel. I'm just didn't personally really connect to this book, so it's not necessarily one that will stick with me. Still, would recommend this to anyone who finds the description intriguing, as it was very well done. ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must Read!

Simply Awesome! What a magnificent story of bonding of friends to care and love each like family.
Wow!! Makes me wanna read it again.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars. This was an entertaining read. I enjoyed the characters.
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I vow to always reader the @center4fiction First Novel Prize winner. It took me a little while to adjust to Winslow’s rhythm but his characters grabbed me from the outset and I ultimately loved this compassionate and profound book.
Stephanie Skees
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Joshunda Sanders
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a gorgeous, Southern book. I reveled in how country it was, in the most elegant, Black sense. My people are from the South, even though I have not spent nearly enough time there. Yet, in this book, I got to experience their luscious, searing wit, the thick ironies and sarcasm. Knot, one of the main characters, is as sharp as she is soft, like all the women I most admire in my family line. Otis Lee and Pep are so beautifully complex and incredible. The children, too, arrive fully formed, sas ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
“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 ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
This was a 4.5 read for me.
thoughts coming shortly
Mar 10, 2020 marked it as unable-to-finish
dnf at page 90
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
In West Mills spans from 1941 to 1987 and we follow Knot who, is really A PIECE OF WORK! This woman does want she wants when she wants and if you have anything to say about it you could get the hell out of her house. ⠀

I wanted to hate this woman but I just couldn’t and I don’t think I was supposed to. Knot was really an asshole but she had her moments of softness that made me sometimes like her...a little. Despite being pretty much the town’s outcast she has her two best friends Valley and Otis
The Nerd Daily
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth Mowbray

1941. West Mills, North Carolina. The Great Depression has ended and the United States is on the verge of joining the Second World War. Meanwhile, Azalea “Knot” Centre moves from her home in one rural community to another to begin working as a teacher. And from the start, it is clear she is one of a kind.

In West Mills spans the decades from 1941 to 1987, telling the story of Knot along with that of her greater community during this t
Apr 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poc-authored
De'Shawn Charles Winslow introduces you to some of the most troublesome and endearing characters in 2020 literature in "In West Mills."

Knot is a drunk, new to Antioch, and can't seem to get her lift straight. Bouncing from man to man and building a family all on her own, Knot finds her solace in the bottle. Nonetheless, a cast of characters - Otis and Valley at the top of the list - find themselves woven into Knots tale, helping her survive through these trying times and reconnect with the peopl
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
JUNE 4, 2019
In 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
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