“Go follow the trail lined with cherry blossoms,’ he told me. ‘It is not a trail of tears, son. It is a trail leading westward, without sadness or sickness or death. It is a trail to your home.”
THE REMOVED by Brandon Hobson is a lyrical story about a Cherokee family coping with loss, grief, and inherited trauma. Alive with Cherokee myth and history, THE REMOVED remarkably blends the real and the spiritual in a deeply moving story that has stuck with me long after finishing the last page.
It has been 15 years since a police officer wrongfully killed teenager Ray-Ray Echota but his family still struggles with his death. The story takes place in the days leading up to the family’s annual bonfire where they commemorate Ray-Ray’s death and the signing of the Cherokee National Constitution. The bonfire is a time when the barrier between the spirit world our world is blurred and allows the Echota’s to reconnect with each other, their emotions, and their ancestors.
I found THE REMOVED to be a beautiful and haunting depiction of trauma: not only the family’s trauma of Ray-Ray’s murder but the inherited ancestral trauma of the Trail of Tears, when the US government forcibly removed Native Americans from their tribal lands. Hobson cleverly connects these traumatic events of the past and present by telling this story through the alternating first-person narration of Ray-Ray’s mother Maria, sister Sonja, and brother Edgar as well as Tsala, an ancestor who refused to leave his homeland. I loved the inclusion of Cherokee folklore and beliefs as well as the elements of the spirit world and magical realism; these parts made the book unique and come to life! This is definitely less of a plot-focused novel and more of a poignant meditation. Some readers may struggle with the heavy symbolism and ambiguity, but I really enjoyed it!
THE REMOVED is a powerful novel that I found emotional and captivating from start to finish.
** Ecco provided the book for honest review
- Title: The Removed
- Author: Brandon Hobson
- Published: February 2, 2021 (Ecco)
- Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism, Contemporary
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * *