Summary and book reviews of The Removed by Brandon Hobson

The Removed

by Brandon Hobson

The Removed by Brandon Hobson X
The Removed by Brandon Hobson
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2021, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 5, 2021, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Prologue
Ray-Ray Echota

SEPTEMBER 5
Quah, Oklahoma

THE DAY BEFORE HE DIED, in the remote town of Quah, Oklahoma, Ray-Ray Echota rode his motorcycle down the empty stretch of highway, blowing past rain puddles and trees, a strong wind pressing against his body. He was fifteen years old. Workers along the side of the road wore orange vests and white hard hats. They didn't pay any attention to him as he flew past them, hunched forward working the throttle. He rode for the pureness of the thrill and for the isolation of riding alone in an area where few police officers ever patrolled. Clouds hung low and pale before him as he rode home past fields and old buildings, heading east into the hills, landscape and sky blending into the horizon.

That night he did impersonations at home to entertain his parents. While Ernest and Maria watched their police drama on TV, Ray-Ray staggered into the living room wearing dark sunglasses and waving a cane around, pretending he was blind. He stood in ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Interspersed with the chapters from the perspectives of the Echotas, Hobson also includes the point-of-view of an ancestor, Tsala, a prophet who foresaw the events of the Trail of Tears, an act of genocide in which thousands of Cherokee were forcibly removed from their land. These chapters ultimately intersect with Edgar's in the novel's arresting and sophisticated climax. There are some elements in the book that are lacking in subtlety. However, the rich characterization and the sharp details of the purgatorial Darkening Land—which is a former nuclear testing site complete with radioactive mud pits—offset these imperfections. The Removed is a novel about the thin veil between the living and the dead, the past and the present...continued

Full Review Members Only (735 words).

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Booklist
With elegiac grace, The Removed tells of one family's struggles to find wholeness after tragedy.

Refinery29
Stunning....Hobson uses Cherokee folklore to great effect in this profound, powerful look at the ways in which trauma — both recent and generational — infuses every aspect of our lives, but that it is possible to heal, to recover without ever forgetting what happened and what is still owed in order to reach a place of true understanding.

BookPage
Splendid…Hobson, a National Book Award finalist...weaves strands of the past and present so skillfully that events that would be improbable in the hands of another author are inevitable in The Removed...Hobson understands William Faulkner's adage, 'The past is never dead. It's not even past.'

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Spare, strange, bird-haunted, and mediated by grief, the novel defies its own bleakness as its calls forth a delicate and monumental endurance. A slim yet wise novel boils profound questions down to its final word: 'Home.'

Library Journal (starred review)
[M]ultilayered, emotionally radiant...Hobson uses Cherokee tradition and the Echotas' story to amplify each other, blending past and present in a narrative of blistering loss and final healing. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Dana Spiotta, author of Eat the Document
There are many stories in The Removed, a mystical, deep, and compassionate novel that explores how the intimate lives of a family are shaped by powerful ancestral legacies. The traumas of the past, both personal and historical, are forever with us, but—and here is the miraculous heart of this novel—people can still abide, resist, and even recover. Every character in The Removed seems to contain an intricate, particular, fully realized world. A quietly dazzling and haunting achievement.

Author Blurb Tommy Orange, author of There There
Brandon Hobson has given us 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. The Removed is spirited, droll, and as quietly devastating as rain lifting from earth to sky.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe in 1912 In The Removed, Edgar visits a mysterious town called the Darkening Land, where his high school friend Jackson tells him about a video game he's designing featuring the Native athlete Jim Thorpe. Thorpe was a multi-sport talent, notable for his careers in baseball and football, along with competing in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm in track and field events.

There are no official records to verify, but Thorpe is believed to have been born in 1887 or 1888 in the area of present-day Prague, Oklahoma, which was Indian territory at the time. Both of his parents were members of the Sac and Fox Nation. As a child he attended local schools, but at 16, while he was still struggling with the loss of his brother to pneumonia and his mother ...

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