Resonant, lyrical, otherworldly. A genre-bending look at the tragedies and legacies that impact one Cherokee family.
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Why I love it
Author, Days of Distraction
One of my favorite reading experiences is the feeling of spending time with characters who speak to me as friends, as family, as intimates. Brandon Hobson has created a beautiful novel about a Cherokee family and their ancestors that does just that—these characters' voices are so alive with their particular struggles, fears, hurts, and hopes, that each stayed with me long after reading the last page.
The Echota family has lost middle child Ray-Ray to a police shooting. The novel follows the family fifteen years later, as each member continues to reckon with the tragedy and the grief that ensues. Ray-Ray's mother Maria is searching for strength to survive and to forgive and to manage another loss—her husband Ernest's memory to Alzheimer's. The youngest son Edgar turns to drugs and finds himself in a world between life and death. And Sonja, the oldest daughter, becomes entwined with a younger man connected with her family's past. We hear, too, from Tsala, an ancestor who tells us stories from Cherokee myth and history, blurring the boundaries between the physical and spiritual worlds.
Brandon Hobson writes with incredible emotional precision, intimacy, and wisdom. Yes, The Removed is a book about loss, but it is also a book about the powers of hope and healing and home. I fell in love with the Echota family, and I'm sure you will, too.
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.