Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “In West Mills” as Want to Read:
In West Mills
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

In West Mills

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  289 ratings  ·  84 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
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about In West Mills, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about In West Mills

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  289 ratings  ·  84 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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 literatu
Diane S ☔
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
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
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
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
"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
(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
Karen Kay
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Hannah Fenster
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars. This was an entertaining read. I enjoyed the characters.
Patricia Romero
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
Elissa Sweet
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 ...more
James Beggarly
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2019
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 20, 2019 rated it really liked it

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
Lorrea - WhatChaReadin'?
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
Paula DeBoard
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.
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Anna Luce
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.
Joan Happel
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
« previous 1 3 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The World Doesn't Require You: Stories
  • Lot
  • What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays
  • American Spy
  • They All Fall Down
  • Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine
  • I'm Telling the Truth, but I'm Lying: Essays
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton
  • Empty Bottles Full of Stories
  • The Gone Dead
  • All the Joy You Can Stand: 101 Sacred Power Principles for Making Joy Real in Your Life
  • Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family
  • Black Girls Must Die Exhausted
  • The Size of a Mustard Seed
  • The Nickel Boys
  • The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers
  • Training School for Negro Girls
  • Only the Strong
See similar books…
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »