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The Removed by Brandon Hobson
Contemporary fiction

The Removed

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by Brandon Hobson

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Quick take

Resonant, lyrical, otherworldly. A genre-bending look at the tragedies and legacies that impact one Cherokee family.

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  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

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  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Literary



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.

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Content warning

This book contains some mentions and descriptions of violence that some readers may find upsetting.

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Get an early look from the first pages of The Removed.
The Removed


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 front of them, blocking their view of the TV, and spoke in his best French accent: “Care to help an old blind man, monsieur? I am in need of assistance.”

“Funny,” Maria said. “Isn’t he funny, Ernest?”

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Why I love it

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.

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Member ratings (10,483)

  • Jessica L.

    largo, FL

    The flow of this story was really great, even with the multiple POV’s. Each chapter kept adding such depth. I loved that the characters journey with grief wasn’t “finished” at the end, but processed.

  • Carla D.

    Erie, PA

    It’s haunting but not too heavy of a story. I really liked getting to know these characters and their stories have stayed with me!! I couldn’t put it down! I’m happy this was my first ever BOTM pick!!

  • Patricia G.

    Scottsdale, AZ

    In a good way, felt like a dream verging on a nightmare...it’s dim, you feel lost, not sure what you’re looking for, but there is a spark of hope/light and any moment you’ll remember what you need.

  • Poppy E.

    Traverse City, MI

    What a truly incredible book. I could NOT put this down&finished in 2 days. Edgar’s story impacted me the hardest, Sonja’s was my favorite, and Wyatt gave me so much hope. An enchanting read. Bravo.

  • Anna W.

    North Mankato, MN

    This book moved me. It’s a haunting mix of magical realism, Cherokee folklore and history, and a family’s story of loss, grief, and presence after the death of their beloved brother and son, Ray-Ray.

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