Excerpt from The Removes by Tatjana Soli, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Removes

by Tatjana Soli

The Removes by Tatjana Soli X
The Removes by Tatjana Soli
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 384 pages
    Aug 13, 2019, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Print Excerpt

His old carbine was unwieldy in her hands, too heavy to hold, but she carried it over to her mother and siblings and crowded over them. The weapon's metal was warm. She imagined it still held the life from her father's hands. She was determined she would blast the first Indian who made it through the door, even if she could do nothing about the second, third, and fourth.

What happened instead was the entire roof caught ablaze at once and formed a fiery crown above them. With no one to extinguish it the heat grew unbearable inside the room, like sitting in the oven where the bread baked. Hot ash fell like snowflakes and ate small burning holes in their clothing. As soon as the beams were softened enough, the entire structure would collapse and incinerate the family whole. The unbidden thought came into Anne's head that perhaps this was her father's parting protection as he waited in heaven above for them to join him.

"We must leave, Mama," Anne yelled, but her mother shook her head, already entered on the path of her Christian martyr's death.

It was a commonplace that any death was preferable to the fate to be found through the door, leaving oneself at the mercy of the Indians. Anne sat, the heavy, oily smoke scratching her lungs, tearing her eyes. An active girl, she preferred movement, wanted to bolt out the door for a last gulp of sweet air and risk being shot rather than sit and roast to death. Already her skin prickled red and tender.

"We should run to the river," she said aloud to no one.

Her mother had gone blank with fear. Blind and helpless and ultimately doomed as the kittens her father regularly gunnysacked and dropped into the river. She would be of no help. Her baby sister, Dottie, and her middle sister, Emma, were already weak from coughing. After witnessing his father die, Nevin had reverted to his usual timidity and was now crying at full volume. He had wet his pants.

"Mama, please?" Anne pleaded.

They all felt a shifting of the house as if it were seeking a more comfortable seating, and as the roof crashed down inside the room, Anne in one motion grabbed Nevin and ran out the door. Why him? Nevin because he was the youngest and the only boy in the family?

Outside was unutterable relief. She gulped the cool air and held her brother closer as she ran along the front of the house, a hail of bullets so strong the wall looked as if it were being chewed apart. She would not think about the arrows also raining, would instead pretend she was making her way through a storm, but then Nevin spasmed in her arms, forcing her to stop. A bullet had shattered his leg; it dangled down bloody and useless at her hip. He howled so loudly that even she could hear the small, astonished roar.

A warrior took advantage of her distraction to grab her from behind while another tore Nevin from her arms. She fought with all her remaining strength, regretting, too late, that she had not remained by her mother's side. She lunged for her brother and was butted in the stomach with a rifle stock. The wind sucked out of her, pain made her forget where she was while in its grip. After a moment, despite the jab of something sharp at her back, she crawled on hands and knees to Nevin's crumpled form, wanting to cover him and go back inside. She ignored the feet at each side of her, too frightened to look up.

A warrior lifted Nevin above her and stood blocking her path. When he set the boy down on the ground like a toy, holding each arm for balance, her brother was queerly calm as he stepped down on the shattered leg. It buckled unnaturally under him, the white of thin bone protruding through skin while he screamed himself to delirium. The warrior chuckled as the child fell to earth, and then clucked his tongue, grabbed the boy by the feet like a rabbit, and dashed him against the building.

Anne prayed for the Lord to claim her. She was guilty of having taken the boy from their mother and then failing him. His last moments on earth filled with cruelty and terror, and it was her fault. Stupid, stupid girl, she deserved whatever now happened.

Excerpted from The Removes by Tatjana Soli. Copyright © 2018 by Tatjana Soli. Excerpted by permission of Sarah Crichton Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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