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The Removed: A Novel

The Removed: A Novel


The Removed: A Novel

ratings:
3.5/5 (160 ratings)
Length:
7 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 2, 2021
ISBN:
9780062997579
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as ebookEbook

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Editor's Note

Roxane Gay book club pick…

Roxane Gay has a new book club, and she picked “The Removed” as her Audacious Book Club’s March 2021 read. (That’s all we needed to hear to be all-in on this one!) In a story alive with the mythology and history of the Cherokee people, a family struggles with grief 15 years after police shot their teenage son dead. The heartbreaking anniversary coincides with the Cherokee National Holiday, cracking open a tale of blurred boundaries between celebration and sorrow, the living and the dead, and the physical world and the spirit world.

Description

“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

Publisher:
Released:
Feb 2, 2021
ISBN:
9780062997579
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as ebookEbook

About the author

Brandon Hobson is the author of the novel Where the Dead Sit Talking, which was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction and winner of the Reading the West Book Award. His other books include Desolation of Avenues Untold and the novella Deep Ellum. His work has appeared in the Pushcart Prize anthology, The Believer, the Paris Review Daily, Conjunctions, NOON, and McSweeney’s, among other places. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at New Mexico State University and teaches in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Hobson is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation Tribe of Oklahoma.


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Reviews

What people think about The Removed

3.7
160 ratings / 14 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Beautiful, haunting, so well written. I loved Edgar’s passages the most.
  • (5/5)
    Amazing story! Well written and excellent readers. Captivating and true to life.
  • (5/5)
    Between the stories of the Cherokee and the narrative of healing after devastating loss, this book feels like a complete picture of the history of the Trail of Tears blending into the violence against Native peoples today and their resilience to continue moving forward. It is a beautiful story of homecoming. The narration with different actors was also wonderful - it made the story come to life. Highly recommend.
  • (5/5)
    This book!! It is just amazing. It tells the story of the Echota family who have lost their son and brother in a case of police violence and mistaken identity. Each remaining member of the family is shattered by this. Each one in their own way. We get to hear them wrestle with this reality 15 years later as they each prepare to attend their family memorial for their lost brother and son. Little do they know, however, that this year the Cherokee ancestors have a little intervention planned. So beautiful. I was spell bound throughout.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I loved the audible version of The Removed. The characters/voices were wonderfully brought to life by three talented artists. The imagery is spectacular! This story about a native American, Cherokee family, layered with indigenous history, cultural folklore and universal themes was immensely appealing to me. The complex dynamics of family, siblings, love, loss, grief, trauma, addiction, violence, and survival are all here for you to observe and explore. As you learn about the Echotas', you may learn things about yourself and recall events that have shaped you in a significant way. I recommend you check it out! My thanks to Roxane Gay and The Audacity Book Club for the selection.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)
    Brandon Hobson writes haunting stories in a somewhat disjointed manner, and The Removed follows suit. Fifteen years after the fact, The Echota family is still struggling to move on from the police shooting of their son and brother, Ray-Ray. Every member of the family gets a voice in the book as the narration shifts perspectives — it even includes an ancestor from the Trail of Tears. The Removed is a difficult read, but a powerful story of grief, family, and Cherokee culture.
  • (4/5)
    A powerful tale of family, identity, and the ways we deal with tragedy, all wrapped around Cherokee myths and storytelling. This book evoked so many emotions that I know will linger for a long time.
  • (2/5)
    One of the depressing books I've ever read. I couldn't read it in one sitting or even more than a small chunk at a time. I get what the author was trying to do but I just didn't get hooked in. It is a good picture of the impact of loss of a loved one, especially unjustly, on people but for a reader the book has to go somewhere and this one, for me, didn't. I didn't get a sense of people healing, which I thought the book was going. I was already familiar with the Trail of Tears and how awful it was so that was new to me. The author did do a good job on showing the hardship but it didn't help me want to read any more.
  • (4/5)
    I think you have to be high on peyote to truly enjoy this book with all its dreams and symbolism. Then it would be a real winner.
  • (3/5)
    I was expecting more given all the high praise it received but it fell short for me. I really liked the characters and the story overall but writing was very choppy and it felt like it needed more development.
  • (4/5)
    A present-day Cherokee family deals with life and grief when an extraordinary young boy comes to stay with them for an emergency temporary foster placement. He is just like their deceased son and his presence restores some of the joy they've lost since his death. The old trauma of the removal plays a role in their lives and the other son's addictions, which he visualizes as a "red fowl" that follows him.
  • (3/5)
    The Removed: A Novel, Brandon Hobson, author; Shaun Taylor-Corbett, DeLanna Studi, Katie Rich, Christopher Salazar, narrators.Reading this short novel about a Cherokee family left me feeling conflicted. The plight of the Echotas, a Native American family, was horrifying. They had no recourse to protest the findings in the death of their son, shot by a policeman in a shopping mall where shots were fired. He appeared to be targeted as the gunman, though unarmed, because he was of Indian heritage. We never do find out if that was true or just supposition. It seems to be up to the reader to determine whether or not the policeman was cleared of charges of murder fairly, or unfairly, whether or not racism played a part in his actions. I was not convinced, either way, although I was totally committed and sensitive to the idea of the Native American’s lack of power. If this story is based in any way on reality, it screams for the reform that was absent.The Echota family was devastated when their son and brother, Ray-Ray, was murdered at just 15 years old. He had a promising future, a winning personality, and was well liked and kind. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but could it have truly been a random murder? There was not enough evidence to prove Ray-Ray was a target because he was a Native American, but circumstantially, one could agree, it was odd that he was simply picked out of a group of people by a cop who was responding to a bulletin that said, “shots fired”! He didn’t see Ray-Ray do anything wrong. From that date forward, 15 years into the future, the family was in the throes of the trauma which changed all of their lives forever. They never stopped mourning the loss. They never got adequate closure. Since the parents were stable until this tragedy, one has to conclude that the event caused the dissolution of the family, the disintegration of their unit, and the loss of the beliefs and values that had guided their lives before. No one was held responsible for Ray-Ray’s murder.Sonja became a bit wanton, used foul language, engaged in sex too freely, didn’t seem to respect herself or others. She sought out younger men, perhaps to replace her brother (only one year younger than she), who had died at age 15 and never aged further, or perhaps to punish those she believed were guilty or involved in his death in some way. She was pulled in many directions. She stalked and sought the affection of Vin, the son of the police officer who shot and killed her brother. Then she wanted to reject him, discovering she did not care for his personality after sleeping with him, but she did love his son. She feared he was violent as she believed his father was. At 31, she was childless and unmarried. She did not seem to have a very honorable character. She was adrift.Edgar, 21, lost his purpose in life because of the effects of his brother’s death on his family, and he became a drug addict who was aimless and had no goals in life. Like his sister, secrets and lies were acceptable to him. His girlfriend was disgusted with him and was planning to leave him. He was involved with odd people and was adrift. He had odd visions and seemed to be irresponsible. He was ashamed of his life, but could do little to change it. Could these two siblings be saved, resurrected? I was not convinced.Ray-Ray’s parents, Ernest, suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Maria who held a bonfire in Ray-Ray’s honor every year for the last decade, were the most stable persons in the family. They took in a bright, witty, wonderfully behaved and well-mannered 15 year old Cherokee foster child, Wyatt, who brought happiness into their lives once again and seemed to miraculously bring back Ernest’s memory, to boot. He seemed to be their son Ray-Ray returned in the body of another. Wyatt was also from the Cherokee Indian tribe.The character’s told their stories in their own voices. One mystical character, Tsala, an ancestor, illustrated a good deal of Indian folklore, which I sometimes found hard to follow. However, the allusions to the “Trail of Tears” were very powerful and enlightening. The book inspires research into the plight of the Native American Indian and that makes it a fabulous choice to read. Anything that inspires learning and positive change is worthwhile.The book is steeped in mystery, legends, the paranormal, otherworldly moments, the supernatural and even weirdly unpredictable and miraculous events. It is a short novel, with excellent narrators, although sometimes it is confusing in its scope, without a fully adequate explanation of events or choices. The trauma of losing a family member without justice prevailing, altered the Echota family’s course of history and changed their lives dramatically, in much the same way that “The Trail of Tears” changed the lives of all Native Americans. Their path forward was blocked.The novel highlights the ways in which people can be “removed” or “cancelled” by a society, in natural and unnatural ways. Ray-Ray was completely “removed”, since he was taken out in what seemed to be a random act of murder; the Native American tribes were forcibly “removed” by the United States government with the “Trail of Tears”, which was the forced migration that systematically made them “disappear” between 1830-1850; Sonja’s childhood personality was “removed” when she could not find a way to process her brother’s death with any justified cause; Edgar was slowly being “removed” as his drug habit made it difficult for him to think and act; the man that Ernest was, is slowly being “removed” as his memory fades; and Maria’s sunny personality was “removed” when the trauma of losing her son completely devastated her. She did remain the strength in the family, however. These family members impacted each other but could not save each other from the devastating effects of Ray-Ray’s murder. There are many ways to “remove” someone from effectively living in society and this book highlights several of them.In many ways today, this same removal culture, now called the “cancel culture”, is “removing” a segment of America’s history, and a segment of the population, as well. The political “left” no longer seems to want to allow any opposition to have a legitimate voice or place in their world. This “cancelling” of the political right, seems no less egregious to many Americans. America is at a crossroads that this author may have been unaware of as he wrote this book to highlight just one aspect of America’s “removal” system. However unintentionally, he also illuminates America’s hypocrisy from the left side of the political spectrum, he illuminates a fault in our government and our free society that will be a stain on society in much the same way as the “Trail of Tears”.
  • (5/5)
    Beautiful story of a family and a people headed toward healing.
  • (5/5)
    Focusing on the Echota family preparing for the annual bonfire to remember their murdered son, Hobson has used Cherokee folklore to help the family understand what has happened. Hobson was able to create characters who the reader can relate. From Ernest, the father, who is experiencing dementia and his wife, Maria, who holds the family together. The adult daughter is dealing with her identity and sadness and the son is struggling with addiction. Both of the adult children also deal with racism in their Oklahoma communities. Add in a foster child who seems to be the reincarnation of Ray-Ray, the dead son. I imagine that if I were to read this story the second time, I would see the same words with different eyes. Hobson is a master storyteller.