Review by Booklist Review
Ray-Ray was 15 years old when he was killed by a cop at a mall fight. The officer had heard a gunshot and fired at the Cherokee Indian in the group involved, although a white kid had been the one who fired the shot. On every anniversary of his death, Ray-Ray's parents, Maria and Ernest, hold a bonfire to remember him. This year, Ray-Ray's younger brother, Edgar, might not make it. His family hasn't seen Edgar since they staged an intervention for his drug use. While Edgar goes off to stay with an old friend in a nightmare town called only the Darkening Land, his sister, Sonja, starts a romance with a younger man, and Maria and Ernest, who is struggling with dementia, take in a foster kid named Wyatt, who reminds them of their slain son, bringing back Ernest's memories in a seeming miracle. Their Cherokee ancestor Tsala connects the family history with the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans in the nineteenth century. With elegiac grace, The Removed tells of one family's struggles to find wholeness after tragedy.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
National Book Award--finalist Hobson (Where the Dead Sit Talking) depicts a Cherokee family's grief and resilience 15 years after a police officer unjustly kills one of the family's three children in Quah, Okla. Maria Echota, a retired social worker in her 70s, battles depression and watches as her adult children struggle and her husband, Ernest, develops Alzheimer's. Their oldest, 31-year-old Sonja, works at Quah's public library, and they fear she's taken an unhealthy fixation on Vin Hoff, a younger white man. Edgar, the youngest, lives in Albuquerque and is addicted to meth. The family's plan to reunite for an annual bonfire to celebrate Cherokee independence in Quah--an event always shaped for them by memories of Ray Ray, who was killed the same day at 15 after a cop wrongly believed Ray Ray had shot a gun--are complicated when Edgar won't answer the phone. Instead, he's taken a train to the mysterious Darkening Land, where the spirits of David Foster Wallace and Jimi Hendrix appear, leaving the reader to wonder if Edgar has died as well. There's hope, though, as Maria and Ernest's foster child, Wyatt, stimulates Ernest's decaying mind, reminding him of Ray-Ray--and Sonja's obsession with Vin turns out to be part of a wonderfully twisted plan to heal her grief. The alternating first-person narration is punctuated by the powerful voice of Tsala, a family ancestor who died before he was forced onto the Trail of Tears. 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. (Feb.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Hobson follows up his National Book Award finalist Where the Dead Sit Talking with a multilayered, emotionally radiant second novel featuring the Echota family 15 years after the death of teenage son Ray-Ray, killed by a gun-ready police officer in an incident at the mall. His struggling mother, Maria; her Alzheimer's-afflicted husband, Ernest; and their remaining children--obsessive daughter Sonja and drug-addicted Edgar--approach the anniversary of Ray-Ray's death with an increasing sense of his presence and more broadly that of a mostly beneficent Spirit World. As effectively depicted in flashback, Ray-Ray was a remarkable young man, and his spirit is manifested by or through foster child Wyatt, who stays briefly with Maria and Ernest and proves singularly capable of lightening their emotional burdens. Meanwhile, Sonja engages in some risky dating behavior but with an ultimately arresting purpose, and she joins her parents in wishing that Edgar would return home for their annual commemoration of Ray-Ray on the anniversary of his death, which falls on the Cherokee National Holiday. But to return home, semi-estranged Edgar must pass through the mythical Darkening Land. VERDICT 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.--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Signs and wonders animate a Cherokee tale of family and community abiding through trauma. Stories are "like medicine, but without the bad taste," says Wyatt, a 12-year-old Cherokee boy in foster care who is preternaturally gifted in telling them. He spins mesmerizing, ambiguous fables about snakes and birds and an underworld, called the Darkening Land, for children at a shelter in rural Oklahoma. Wyatt, whose father is in jail and mother is in the wind, is spending a few days with Maria and Ernest Echota, the only Cherokee placement available. Fifteen years earlier, a White policeman shot and killed the couple's middle child, Ray-Ray, outside a mall. Now Wyatt's quirks and buoyant impersonations startle the Echotas by echoing those of Ray-Ray. More remarkably, the presence of this child appears to draw Ernest back from the fog of Alzheimer's. Maria, her surviving son, Edgar, and daughter, Sonja, all take turns narrating. So does Tsala, a mysterious figure who declares, "We are speakers of the dead, the drifters and messengers….We are always restless, carrying the dreams of children and the elderly, the tired and sick, the poor, the wounded. The removed." The talented Hobson conjures both the Trail of Tears and family fracturing, as he did in Where the Dead Sit Talking (2018), a finalist for the National Book Award. The traumas of forced removal and Ray-Ray's killing twine in Maria's depression, Edgar's meth use, and Sonja's drifting detachment. "I used to stare out the window, envying trees," she says. "This became a regular pattern of thought for me...that I stared at a tree outside and envied its anonymity, its beauty and silence....A tree could stand over a hundred years and remain authentic." Edgar, in his own Darkening Land, fights a treacherous fellow named Jackson Andrews, an evocation of Andrew Jackson. Each of the Echotas gropes toward their annual family bonfire commemorating Ray-Ray on the Cherokee National Holiday. 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." Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.