cover image The Removed

The Removed

Brandon Hobson. Ecco, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-299754-8

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.)