The Removed: “A novel I have waited a lifetime for”

Horrifying but powerful, a masterpiece that rightly represents the effects of the forced removal of Native Americans, generational trauma, and more on a Cherokee family


Switching between the narratives of Maria Echota, Sonja Echota, and Edgar Echota, the mother, the oldest child, and the youngest child respectively, The Removed is a tragic novel following a Cherokee family through each member’s personal hardships. Staff reporter Drew Adrian Julao applauds Hobson for writing a tragedy where the audience feels so connected to characters and feel for them.

Drew Adrian Julao, Staff Reporter

The Removed is a tragic novel following a Cherokee family through each member’s personal hardships. The story switches between the narratives of Maria Echota, Sonja Echota, and Edgar Echota, the mother, the oldest child, and the youngest child respectively. Following their lives fifteen years after the death of Ray-Ray Echota, the oldest son, in a police shooting, The Removed tells their story as they handle the grief of their lost loved one, and the hardships that the past of their ancestors give them in the modern world.

It is easy to say that this story is an uncomfortable one as it addresses issues like racism, epreseabuse, and addiction. Edgar Echota’s story is especially harrowing as he enters a place known as the Darkening Land in the wake of an accidental suicide. In this confusing, ugly, and twisted world, everyone wants something from him; we just don’t know what that is. Brandon Hobson, the author, is a master of the suspense of mundane issues and understands the predictability of the premise of his novel and uses it to his advantage, creating tension and diffusing it as he pleases. Hobson only leaves readers wanting more.

All of the characters speak rather awkwardly and seem so disconnected from everything making the story feel even more eerie as it goes on and we are dragged through their conscience. The Echota family introduces us to Cherokee beliefs and we see them echoed throughout the story nonchalantly. Heavily drawing from the animistic beliefs of Cherokee’s, Hobson incorporates legends into the book and teaches us about different stories that seem random but later on intertwine into a greater piece. The use of animals as omens of things to come is another way in which Hobson so greatly controls every aspect of his story with the mention of a hawk or an owl.

“I returned to my bedroom and went to the window. Outside, at the back of the yard, a hawk was resting on a fence post, sitting very still.” – Brandon Hobson, The Removed, page 161

Hobson is a Cherokee citizen which is probably why he knows so much about their culture and legends. The way the ambience of his story feels reminds me of the feelings that Shirley Jackson novels give me, that creepiness in an unknowing kind of way. At the same time, Hobson uses this unknowingness to comfort the reader in sweet moments that make readers tear up.

“ We saw a hawk swoop down at the edge of the road, ahead. Papa pointed. It perched and turned to us before flying into the woods. ‘I see that hawk from time to time,’ Papa said. ‘I’ve always wondered if it’s Ray-Ray watching us. Or maybe an ancestor.’” – Brandon Hobson, The Removed, page 187

Living in the modern world does not mean that the past of a people is easily forgotten and this rings true in the lives of the Echota children who encounter difficulties due to their race in a harsh world full of people who aren’t educated enough about Natives to understand them. Through his book, Hobson is able to make us feel for the Echota ancestors whose fears and trauma carry on to their descendants. Their experiences during their removal echo in the Echota family.

“I drifted in and out of sleep, I think, hovering in that space between dreams and visions. At one point I heard the Cherokee phrase whispered in my ear: ‘Aniyosgi anahili, aniyosgi anahili.’ Soldiers are marching, soldiers are marching. I heard it over and over, nudging me like a bad dream.” – Brandon Hobson, The Removed, page 191

Hobson truly brings to life the characters on the page to show us how horrified Cherokee Native Americans felt during their removal, to the point that there is an understanding that, in retrospect, we are not reading about the Echota family anymore, we are reading about removed Natives from the Trail of Tears. 

“…I saw vision of the dying before I understood what it means to die.” – Brandon Hobson, The Removed, page 145

“The apparition said, ‘I am the savage. Shoot the savage.’ Then it froze, staring out into the distance. I realized it had paused, fallen into sleep mode, unresponsive and still.” – Brandon Hobson, The Removed, page 207

Hobson is a genius author and The Removed is a wonderful piece full of wonderful representation that encapsulates its reader in the emotions and ambience of the story. I have not read anything like this in a long time and can say that this is a novel I have waited a lifetime for. Even in the end we are still wondering, “What’s next?” To feel so connected to characters and feel for them is what one can only hope for in writing a tragedy, but Hobson did not hope, he just did it. To that I say, bravo.