Saturday Review: “People As Part, Community As Sum” a review by John Hanley
De’Shawn Charles Winslow. In West Mills. (2019)
Anna Jean Mayhew. Tomorrow’s Bread. (2019)
Over the summer, we’re sharing some reruns of older book reviews for authors whose latest work is recently published or will be out soon.
We are overjoyed, naturally, to see North Carolina writers on any kind of superlative list, be that awards, writers to watch, or summer/holiday reading lists. De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s newest book, Decent People, is included on this year’s The Bitter Southener Summer Reading List.
Decent People returns to the site of Winslow’s first novel, “Set in rural North Carolina, In West Mills [is] based on the town of Wilson’s Mills, NC, [and] brings this notion of community as family straight to the forefront,” wrote Hanley in 2020. Will we again see the likes of “the book’s two central characters: the boozy, strong-willed woman Knot and her sincere-to-a-fault neighbor Otis Lee, who seem to take on a father-daughter dynamic despite the fact that Otis Lee is only five years older than Knot”?
There are many mysteries in the story, but Hanley tells us it’s no secret to the heart of the book. He writers, “As tumultuous as the relationships can be between the neighbors of West Mills, the care that they have for each other is as unmoving and unchanging as the town itself seems to be.”
“… while In West Mills asks us to examine how a community can be a foundation for its inhabitants, Tomorrow’s Bread asks us what happens when that foundation is stripped away,” explains Hanley. Mayhew’s story device is the real-life destruction of the Charlotte Black community of Brooklyn. The main characters are all intimately tied into the gentrification of the neighborhood and must figure out how to help themselves, each other, and their neighbors. “Mayhew dares us to experience the interconnected and complicated lives of these characters and not feel some sense of indignation at the
loss of such a significant piece of their identity.”
Interesting people, interesting places: North Carolina always has a story to share.
Read the rest of the review in the ’20 Online issue.