The Removed: Heartwrenching Message, but Lacking Execution

“An elder had once taught me not to be afraid of death because there is no death – there is only a change of worlds.”

The Removed – Brandon Hobson

My Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In Summary of The Removed

The Removed follows members of a modern Cherokee family through the week leading up to the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Ray-Ray, their beloved son and brother who was unarmed when killed by a policeman. Each chapter switches between different narrative voices – Maria (mom), Sonja (daughter), and Edgar (son) – to reveal how each of their individual struggles are interconnected to one another and Ray-Ray’s murder. Attempting to gather the family together in their brokenness is difficult, but not all hope seems lost when a young boy enters the family’s life and appears eerily similar to Ray-Ray himself. 

Brandon Hobson writes The Removed with intercalary chapters that depict the story of Tsala – a Cherokee ancestor experiencing The Trail of Tears. The blend of Cherokee history and mythology with the modern connects the family’s past with the present, revealing the ongoing traumas and grief affecting Indigenous people, including racial profiling, drug abuse, mental health struggles, broken homes, and domestic abuse. 

Warning: Drug abuse, domestic violence, gun/police violence, murder

PositivesNegatives
About a Cherokee Nation family written by a Cherokee Nation citizenTwo of the three character perspectives feel underdeveloped and stagnant for almost the entirety of the novel
Myths and history of the Cherokee experience woven into the novel’s intercalary chaptersWriting style for the characters’ chapters falls flat, lacking depth in sentence variety and plot development
Moments of powerful, intense emotionHas less of the Cherokee experience and culture in it than I was hoping to read about

“Beloved, we know the soldiers were coming before they ever arrived. Our people knew long before, thanks to the prophecies. It was a time of fear, but we would never let fear bury us.”

The Review

One part of me believes this book is powerful, while another part of me says, “This isn’t quite what I expected; I wanted more depth.” 

I wanted to love this. I really, really did… but this one mostly fell flat for me. 

My initial thoughts: The Removed just wasn’t exciting. I found myself struggling to push myself to pick up the book and read it. It’s not that I hated it or necessarily thought it was a bad book, but it was often boring and left me wanting more. The premise had so much potential, but the novel ended up being lackluster with mundane, unnecessarily details and certain parts unnecessarily drawn out. Sometimes I thought about giving up on it. 

My thoughts over the days following finishing the novel: The Removed is written in the style it is to form a gaping hole in the hearts of readers, leaving them wanting more for the characters and feeling empty. The dreariness for these characters is revealed through the raw, day-to-day life of a grieving family “going through the motions.” 

As you can see, this book is complicated. 

Halfway through The Removed, I had to reset my expectations. Once I switched my desire for a plot-based novel to accepting that this book is more of a character-study, my perception of the story improved. Despite this, I found Sonja and Edgar hard to relate to and sometimes annoying. I enjoyed Maria’s perspective, but I think her husband – who is suffering from Alzheimer’s – would have been an intriguing perspective to include, as he begins finding hope in Ray-Ray’s memories. 

My initial draw to this novel was the Cherokee history and folklore aspect, but I wish there had been more. Actually, my favorite parts of this book were the intercalary chapters told through the perspective of Tsala – an ancestor on the Trail of Tears. I wish more of this was blended into the daily lives of the modern characters. We see pieces of it, but not much. Additionally, the ending for the modern characters is much more steeped in Cherokee folklore, but the transition to it is a bit confusing. I may need to reread the end to better grasp what the reader and characters are left with. 

If you are interested in character-based novels over plot-based novels, this could suit you well; it is definitely literary fiction. If you are looking for an upbeat, carefree novel, this is certainly not it.

While this was not a stand-out book for me, I do realize the important take-aways it provides readers. I would never want to put down and discredit the importance of Indigenous / minority voices. I just wish the plot had been developed differently and with different or less characters to achieve the same heartbreaking, significant message about a culture that has historically persevered and continues to face the effects of generational violence and prejudice.

Honestly, you should just read it and report back to me on what you think. You may love it or you may not, but either way you will be faced with important, unjust realities that we must acknowledge and consider.

The Removed Book Information

  • Published: 2021
  • ISBN:  9780062997548
  • Format: Hardback (purchased as early release from Book of the Month; now available for purchase)
  • Length: 270 pages

Learn About & Support the Author – Brandon Hobson

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