“A haunted work, full of voices old and new. It is about a family’s reckoning with loss and injustice, and it is about a people trying for the same. The journey of this family’s way home is full—in equal measure—of melancholy and love.” —Tommy Orange, author of There There
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Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago—from National Book Award finalist Brandon Hobson
In the fifteen years since their teenage son, Ray-Ray, was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family has been suspended in private grief. The mother, Maria, increasingly struggles to manage the onset of Alzheimer’s in her husband, Ernest. Their adult daughter, Sonja, leads a life of solitude, punctuated only by spells of dizzying romantic obsession. And their son, Edgar, fled home long ago, turning to drugs to mute his feelings of alienation.
With the family’s annual bonfire approaching—an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death, and a rare moment in which they openly talk about his memory—Maria attempts to call the family together from their physical and emotional distances once more. But as the bonfire draws near, each of them feels a strange blurring of the boundary between normal life and the spirit world. Maria and Ernest take in a foster child who seems to almost miraculously keep Ernest’s mental fog at bay. Sonja becomes dangerously fixated on a man named Vin, despite—or perhaps because of—his ties to tragedy in her lifetime and lifetimes before. And in the wake of a suicide attempt, Edgar finds himself in the mysterious Darkening Land: a place between the living and the dead, where old atrocities echo.
Drawing deeply on Cherokee folklore, The Removed seamlessly blends the real and spiritual to excavate the deep reverberations of trauma—a meditation on family, grief, home, and the power of stories on both a personal and ancestral level.
“The Removed is a marvel. With a few sly gestures, a humble array of piercingly real characters and an apparently effortless swing into the dire dreamlife, Brandon Hobson delivers an act of regeneration and solace. You won’t forget it.” —Jonathan Lethem, author of The Feral Detective
National Book Award finalist Hobson (Where the Dead Sit Talking) depicts a Cherokee family's grief and resilience 15 years after a police officer unjustly kills one of the family's three children in Quah, Okla. Maria Echota, a retired social worker in her 70s, battles depression and watches as her adult children struggle and her husband, Ernest, develops Alzheimer's. Their oldest, 31-year-old Sonja, works at Quah's public library, and they fear she's taken an unhealthy fixation on Vin Hoff, a younger white man. Edgar, the youngest, lives in Albuquerque and is addicted to meth. The family's plan to reunite for an annual bonfire to celebrate Cherokee independence in Quah an event always shaped for them by memories of Ray Ray, who was killed the same day at 15 after a cop wrongly believed Ray Ray had shot a gun are complicated when Edgar won't answer the phone. Instead, he's taken a train to the mysterious Darkening Land, where the spirits of David Foster Wallace and Jimi Hendrix appear, leaving the reader to wonder if Edgar has died as well. There's hope, though, as Maria and Ernest's foster child, Wyatt, stimulates Ernest's decaying mind, reminding him of Ray-Ray and Sonja's obsession with Vin turns out to be part of a wonderfully twisted plan to heal her grief. The alternating first-person narration is punctuated by the powerful voice of Tsala, a family ancestor who died before he was forced onto the Trail of Tears. Hobson is a master storyteller and illustrates in gently poetic prose how for many Native Americans the line between this world and the next isn't so sharp. This will stay long in readers' minds.
Moving Tale of Intergenerational Trauma
When Ray-Ray was 15 years old he was shot and killed by a police officer at a shopping mall. For the past 15 years his family has grieved and struggled with the loss. The novel is narrated in first person by three family members. Maria, the mother, is struggling to care for her husband, Ernest, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. But Ernest’s demeanor changes when they take in a 15 year-old foster child. Sonja, the sister, starts a relationship with a man which takes a dark turn. While Edgar, the brother, struggles with addiction, he stays with a friend after his girlfriend leaves him. The novel follows the five days leading up to the anniversary of Ray-Ray’s death celebrating his life with a bonfire.
I absolutely loved this book. It reminded me of THE PROPHETS when dealing with the intergenerational trauma and storytelling. This book explores racism in the Native American community starting with the brutal torture of the Cherokee people who were forcibly removed on the Trail of Tears to the murder of Ray-Ray is another racist trauma inflicted on the family. I enjoyed each of the characters stories which each had interesting plot. However, this isn’t a strongly plot driven book but more an exploration of theme and mood. Birds show up frequently in this book, a constant symbolism. Wolves and storytelling also recur with mentions of ancestors and spirits. The writing in this book is gorgeous, simple, yet moving. I loved every minute reading this book. The story was surprising and moving with the stories echoing each other in a beautiful way. I highly recommend this book. ▪️