Book Review: Elizabeth L. Silver’s The Execution of Noa P Singleton

July 11, 2013 4 out of 5, review 1 ★★★★

Book Review: Elizabeth L. Silver’s The Execution of Noa P SingletonTitle: The Execution of Noa P Singleton
Author: Elizabeth L. Silver
Genre: Fiction / Literature
My Rating: four-stars
My Copy: Purchased
Add to: Goodreads
Synopsis: Before I Go to Sleep meets Defending Jacob, with a voice reminiscent of Lionel Shriver, in this story of a woman on death row, what she did to get there, and why she may not want the truth to come out.

Six months before her execution date, Noa is visited on Pennsylvania's death row by a high-powered attorney named Marlene Dixon who initiates a clemency petition on her behalf. Marlene also happens to be the mother of Noa's victim, Sarah, and ten years earlier, she helped cement Noa's fate on the witness stand. What unfolds is the haunting account of Noa P. Singleton, an insular, acerbic thirty-five-year-old woman who agrees to entertain this last-minute appeal because Marlene has unexpectedly reversed her belief in the death penalty.

Marlene wants to know why her daughter died, and she scours Noa's past to reveal the bright loner who took Sarah's life. Haunting those involved is the fact that the motive was never revealed, but Noa doesn't want to fight for her life, and she is only slowly persuaded to tell what happened that day. A character-driven story about two women whose lives are inextricably linked through the law, through shared sentiments of guilt, and through irreversible mistakes, Noa and Marlene's motivations become increasingly nebulous, and in the end they must accept that they are in fact a blurred spectrum of good and evil.

Regardless of which side you’re on concerning the issue of the death penalty, Elizabeth L. Silver’s The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a thought provoking debut. Six months before her execution, Noa P Singleton receives an unexpected visit. The mother of her victim, Marlene Dixon, informs her she’s had a change of heart and doesn’t believe in capital punishment. Working with her associate, Oliver Stansted, she creates an organization, MAD (Mothers Against Death), but Noa doesn’t want anything to do with Marlene or her organization. Oliver works tirelessly on Noa’s behalf, but Noa doesn’t talk. As the countdown begins to her execution, we’re left with questions regarding Noa’s version of events. Will Noa be granted clemency or will she be tied to her fate?

Narrative is first person and at times, it makes it difficult for the reader to trust Noa. Silver does a good job slowly detailing Noa’s past. Since this is Noa’s story and we’re on a journey to find out exactly why she’s on death row, it makes sense that it’s in first person. We do get Marlene’s point of view via letters to her daughter and some readers call them melodramatic and I agree, but again, Marlene has made a career as a lawyer and she knows how to give a presentation. The only complaint I have is regarding Oliver, he was fresh out of law school and in many ways naive, but I would have loved his thoughts on both Marlene and Noa. We’re introduced to another secondary character and I won’t go into detail as to who they are specifically and I’ll leave that up to you to find out, but I was upset on behalf of Noa.

The heart of the novel really is Noa and her past. As she slowly begins to open up, you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Here was this woman who did what she did because that’s all she knew. I’m not revealing a spoiler as to whether or not she’s guilty; I’ll leave that up to you to find out. At the same time we have a grieving mother who is linked to Noa in ways the reader can’t imagine. I was shocked and the twist Silver gives us, I wasn’t expecting it. There are a few unanswered questions, but I’ll let them be because in real life those don’t get addressed. It’s true what Silver writes regarding a crime or a murder and that everyone wants to know why. As secrets are revealed, I couldn’t help but think I didn’t want to know about Sarah, our victim. It’s terrible to even think about it, but by the time we’re introduced to her, we’ve spent so much time with Noa that you can’t help but be on her team and cheering for her. Silver makes it difficult for us to feel any empathy towards Sarah.

I debated with the rating heavily. Shortly after reading it, I gave it a five, but in hindsight, it’s a four. I really liked it, but the writing is a bit too descriptive in some areas and it makes it difficult for the reader to decipher what Silver is trying to convey. Silver doesn’t take a side with regards to the death penalty nor does she explore the topic in-depth. The Execution of Noa P Singleton makes us think about Noa’s history and how this fictional character on death row becomes a little more alive with each page. It won’t make you change your stance, but it will leave you thinking about the injustice of the system and if your friends read it, you’ll have a great discussion about the book and the sentencing of death row inmates.

My favorite quote:
“It’s a funny phenomenon. You can never visit your own funeral, but if you want to see how people feel about you, commit a crime.”

If you’re looking for a thought provoking novel, add Elizabeth L. Silver’s The Execution of Noa P. Singleton to your reading list.

One Response to “Book Review: Elizabeth L. Silver’s The Execution of Noa P Singleton”

  1. Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader

    Well, this certainly sounds like a fascinating read! I love the idea that the information regarding Noa’s past and the nature of her alleged crime is revealed slowly over the course of the novel, as that’s the sort of thing I really tend to enjoy. If I’m being honest, I’ve never had a firm opinion on the death penalty one way or the other. I’ve never felt educated and knowledgable enough about the subject to form an educated opinion. As you said, this certainly sounds like a thought-provoking read, and I would imagine, raise some very interesting questions. I’ll definitely be adding this one to my TBR list.

    Thank you for the wonderful and insightful review, as always, Jessica 🙂
    Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse AndersonMy Profile

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