The Removed, by Brandon Hobson

julieannasbooks's review against another edition

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The Removed

The Removed follows the Echtora family, who lost their teenage son, Ray-Ray, to a police shooting fifteen years ago. The family grieves quietly, each member of the family in their own way. The annual bonfire is coming up, signaling the Cherokee National Holiday, and the anniversary of Ray-Ray’s death. Maria attempts to call the family together at this time to openly discuss Ray-Ray’s memory, but as the days to the bonfire draw nearer, the family finds themselves caught in a blur between their lives and the spirit world.

We reveal ourselves to those who will look. It has been said we are illusions, nightmares and dreams, the disturbing and tense apparitions of the mind. We are always restless, carrying the dreams of children and the elderly, the tired and sick, the poor, the wounded. The removed.

I came across The Removed while browsing 2021 releases and looking for literary fiction novels in particular. And while I enjoyed the author’s writing style and the exploration of each of the family members, I did find myself wanting a little more from this book.

There are so many heavy topics that are explored in this book, some of which including racism and police brutality, drug abuse and addiction, and coping with loss. With each of these characters, you see the many ways that they’ve been dealing with the loss of Ray-Ray, and how that loss and pain remains fifteen years later. Throughout The Removed, you also see how the family encounters racism frequently, adding to the pain that Ray-Ray never saw justice. This is all interwoven with both the anniversary of Ray-Ray’s death and the Cherokee National Holiday, as well as the introduction of a foster child to their lives.

There is so much that is discussed in The Removed, and I do wish that many of these topics were covered in greater depth. For many of the characters, I feel like these heavier topics were covered at a surface level and deserved more exploration. As I continued reading, and especially towards the end of this book, I wondered whether this was intentional. Stories, just as in life, do not often wrap up neatly. Many of the issues that the characters face have existed for a long duration (some their entire lives), and are issues that they will continue to face for some time. That being said, looking at these issues from this angle may be a direct representation of that.

In a similar way, I do wish that all of these chapters were more connected to the foundation of this novel – the loss of Ray-Ray and the upcoming Cherokee National Holiday. The book largely focuses on the characters individually and what their lives are like fifteen years later, but I felt like there was less focus on the events that the characters’ individual stories were leading up to.

With all of this in mind, I think The Removed is going to be a really good fit for not only those who enjoy character-driven literary fiction but also for those who prefer short stories. The style of writing in this novel (in addition to the points above) reminded me quite a bit of short story collections I’ve read in the past. I say this because this is the kind of story where there’s a lot to ponder and discover from beyond what’s on the pages. Regardless, this is definitely a book that’s been on my mind a lot since I read it, and one that I think will continue to for some time.

SpoilerDeath of a child, gun violence, drug use, mentions of incarceration, racism, physical assault and abuse, violence, cancer, addiction

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mryanrich's review

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dark emotional reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


tomatofan2's review

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Everyone needs to go to therapy

kirstyjmacleod's review

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challenging mysterious sad medium-paced
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes


Mystical and intriguing, dense and poetic with Native folklore

archetypesandanecdotes's review

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Full Review on the Blog - Archetypes and Anecdotes

3⭐️ Although this novel was powerful in ways, it lacked depth in others. Expect a character-based book rather than one that is plot-driven. It focuses on internal struggles within individual characters and the Cherokee Nation, rather than physical struggles and conflict. The style is meant to create a sense of dreariness, sadness, and raw heartache in readers through the eyes of grieving family members, only some of which are likable. Additionally, some Cherokee history and folklore are present, but I wish there was more. Although lacking in a moving plot, the message the novel provides about Indigenous / minority voices is important.

For more in-depth details on the positives/negatives, synopsis, and a full review, check out my blog - linked above!

cmgonsalves's review

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4.5! this was heartbreaking and magical. reminded me of the short story "La culpa es de los tlaxcaltecas" / "Blame the Tlaxcaltecas" by Elena Garro!
reminder to acknowledge and respect indigenous peoples and the land we stole!!

awkwardreader13's review

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I thought the stories of the two adult children were the most interesting. There were lots of interesting premises in here and good things in general, but somehow it fell a little flat for me. I think maybe if it had focused on a few of the stories in here instead of all of them, that it could've been better. There were also things that could've been explained more to make things less confusing.

butzjenna's review

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emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


cwparrish's review

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This one was s l o w for me. I wanted to “get it” but I’m afraid I was pretty confused through the whole book. Never really seemed to have a climax or resolution. I think it was probably deeper than I was able to understand

mariareads613's review

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I liked this book. I had trouble in the first half of the book connecting with the story. I did like the integration of Cherokee myths and history in Tsala's chapters. It's a book that I can see myself reading again and gaining something new out of it.