A beguiling debut novel about the stories we tell ourselves to survive, the scars that never fade, and the things we choose to call the truth.
Noa P. Singleton speaks not a word in her own defense throughout a brief trial that ends with a jury finding her guilty of first-degree murder. Ten years later, a woman who will never know middle age, she sits on death row in a maximum security penitentiary, just six months away from her execution date.
Seemingly out of the blue, she is visited by Marlene Dixon, a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the heartbroken mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing. She tells Noa that she has changed her mind about the death penalty and Noa’s sentence, and will do everything in her considerable power to convince the governor to commute the sentence to life in prison - if Noa will finally reveal what led her to commit her crime.
Noa and Marlene become inextricably linked through the law, shared sentiments of guilt, and irreversible mistakes in an unapologetic tale of love, anguish, and deception that is as unpredictable as it is magnificently original.
©2013 Elizabeth L. Silver (P)2013 Random House Audio
"In this grippingly off-kilter thriller, a young woman sits on death row after being convicted of murder until a high-powered attorney – the victim’s mother – intervenes, leaving everyone to wonder why." (O, The Oprah Magazine)
"Silver has written a darkly witty, acerbic jigsaw puzzle of a first novel about legal versus moral culpability…[and] explores convolutions of guilt and innocence beyond the law’s narrow scope with a sharpness and attention to detail that can be unnerving but demands attention." (Kirkus)
"Vividly written debut novel...Silver definitely delivers a thought-provoking examination of the criminal-justice system, providing a clear-eyed view of the artificial theatrics that dominate criminal trials and a heartfelt look at both grief and remorse. An intriguing debut from a writer to watch." (Booklist)
I like books that have interesting characters and easy to follow plots. For example, Cormoran Strike, is a great character for me.
There’s no question the book is compelling but to be truthful the readers (they are to be praised for a magnificent read. They made us hate all the characters so much that we just had to know what motivated them) saved it from failure. The moral ambiguities that the story brings out are worthwhile to discuss, ie. Is the death penalty moral?” but the story doesn’t do it justice. The author definitely succeeded in forcing me to finish to find out what really happened but I felt (don’t want a spoiler here) the ending was somewhat non-believable. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the book but it was no, “Gone Girl”. When I finished the book, I realized that I didn’t “believe” any of the characters even though I knew them well. Was this Ms. Silver’s intent? I don’t think so. I think it is just a case of a first novel lack of depth. I know it’s not fair to compare but when I read a book like this (here I mean the author’s linguistic gymnastics), I’m forced to think of a book like “American Pastoral”. After all, we have to set the bar somewhere. When I think of the characters in Noa P, they are so anemic and thinly drawn that they disappear almost as quickly as the earplugs are out. During a talk to librarians on Youtube, Ms. Silver admitted getting the idea for the plot while taking a capital punishment course in law school but only began writing the book in earnest while she was working on a real life capital punishment case. That sounds about right to me; she was working out her own ambiguities of the issues in the case in fiction. The problem is that she had too much law and not enough character in the writing. Although she tries to describe the legal system objectivity, if she stays in the legal profession, I would be shocked. Her dislike of her chosen profession is so obvious. I think that is ultimately one of the flaws of the book. During due diligence of the revisiting of the case, the inadequacies of the trial are so numerous, that it’s hard to believe a death sentence makes any sense. I think Ms. Silver lucked out on getting such a boost of publicity. We were all “Jonesing” for the next “Gone Girl” and voila’ “Noa P appears. Great premise and potential and great marketing but ultimately the book doesn’t deliver. I have to place this book in the “a good quick summer read while waiting for the next really great book” category.
yes interesting ideas about the justice system without being preachy; needed more character development for some of the "history" and connections between the characters.
knew it was coming -- expected more karma for Marlene.
narrator for Noa (Rebecca Lowman) was perfect in voicing the false bravado assertiveness covering the gaping need inside of Noa. Marlene (Amanda Carlin) was OK but not as good but I think that was just because the character wasn't developed as much by the writer.
no -- they would miss the gray areas.
If books were free and there was no budget juggling necessary to pay for my addiction, I wouldn't care that a book was arbitrarily heralded and rolled out on a red carpet; I'd chalk a stinker up to an unlucky gamble--pick another from the book tree, and read on. Or, if *professional* critics reviewed books with no thought to marketing, I'd gladly accept my bad taste in literature and go on confidently to the beat of my own drum. Ah, if dishes were wishes... I wouldn't feel so hoodwinked (and light in the pockets); I wouldn't aim my discontent at those well-marketed wastes of trees. But gosh darn it I have spent a lot of $$ lately on books that are more wiener than winner. Therefore, I saw this author's own words, in the first chapter of this book, as encouragement: *once something has been said, it's impossible to ignore or forget what you heard* -- and I heard this book was supposed to be *genius*.
The Execution of blahblahblahblahton would be an outstanding paper for a literature class, or a passable rough framework for a novel, but served up as an amazing debut novel from a promising new author, one of June's top picks...it's a few trumpets short of a fanfare. I don't want to detract from the author's talent, or suggest its arrival should have been heralded by kazoos; she writes with intelligence, uses a considerable vocabulary well, and the book has a forceful pace that never drags. Some of the dialogue is very clever and provocative; she definitely has style, and deserves to be tagged as promising. I believe Elizabeth Silver will be an author to watch for, once she develops a little patina. The story itself is a flat plane, without dimension or plausibility; it suffers from an ambiguous theme and lack of direction or character development. Silver may have had a good premise, she just didn't flesh it out or give the reader the infrastructure for independent interpretation. It seemed inflexible and formulaic. Using the mother's letters to her dead daughter was expository dialogue that made the story feel even more contrived, and rigid. Instead of steering the reader to form those profound moral questions, she forces the reader instep and stuffs a pre-set opinion down the throat.
No reader agrees 100% all the time with all the critics; but lately I've been wondering if I'm speaking the same language as some of those paid to give their opinion. You may find this book very good--I'd agree with that assessment, but genius, mesmerizing, gripping, outstanding, consuming, unforgettable? That's why I ignored the 24 hr. rule and wrote this review immediately...ask me tomorrow and I won't remember this one, but I will remember Elizabeth Silver.
After the first couple of chapters, I really wasn't sure I was going to be able to hang with Noa P. - the book seemed completely overwrought and bogged down with lavish descriptions of irrelevancies. These roadblocks to the progression of the story quickly became irritating. It slowed the conversations between the characters, as Silver took time to describe the sensation of every breath, precise descriptions of the appearance of one character's fingers pressed against a pane of glass, and other minutiae. It's tedious.
Despite the morass of words, the story picks up and becomes compelling at the halfway point. I genuinely wanted to know what happened - there is a strong story here, but it's hard to see it under all the linguistic frippery. I wondered if perhaps the excessive descriptive language was deliberate on the part of the author, to make us feel as trapped, helpless and hampered as Noa does; but even if this is the case, it was still annoying.
One huge pet peeve: at one point, bullets go tumbling into a backpack "like silent thunder." What is silent thunder like? Wouldn't it be like nothing? If something is silent, isn't is basically not at all like thunder?
ANYWAY. I still liked the book. Once the action gets going, the language gets terser and better. I found the ending unsatisfying, but only because I had come to care about the outcome. Worth a listen.
former nuclear scientist
I think the author of this book is going for an award of the pretentious literary persuasion. That's the only real explanation - besides true pretentiousness - for the overdose of metaphors, similes, and unnecessary wordiness of this book.
Noa is a hyperarticulate prisoner on death row. As she looks back to the crime for which she was convicted, doling out details a little at a time, she inserts flowery commentary on almost every detail. And why stop at one metaphor when you can do three. First, a short one somewhat related to the subject, like the children of two step cousins. Second, another short one, but striving to be different like a goth kid at prep school who thinks a third ear piercing is daring. Then, last, a long metaphor or simile during which the listener forgets what the actual subject was as thoroughly as a sixth year Alzheimer's patient forgets the names of her night nurses at the assisted living facility his son sold his house to pay for.
Tiresome, right? Wait to you get to the lists.
When she isn't pelting us with ridiculous comparisons or saying the same thing multiple times in different ways, she is preening for literary praise with phrases like "that indignant evening" that seem to be made up entirely of words she likes without much regard for clarity or meaning. I don't know if the distraction from the plot is accidental or on purpose, her trying to hide that the minor characters who drive the story really don't make any sense; since relationships and character motivations are the key reason for a confessional novel such as this one, that means that the skeleton she hangs her book on doesn't make sense. I felt let down by this, and by the farfetched reveals and twists that were supposed to explain everything. The author spends a lot of time explaining Noa when she isn't doing anything, when she really should be explaining Noa when she is doing the things that got her convicted.
Maybe it's on purpose: maybe the author's goal is to show that we don't act in stressful moments the way we think we will when we have time to think. But somehow it feels like it was just a shot and a miss.
Something happening. Characters I don't care about.
Boring. 2 hours into it and I have no interest in what happens to Noa or the rest of the characters. Seems like she should be executed.
Making the world better one review at a time.
There is a lesson in Elizabeth L. Silver’s “The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.” The lesson is to hold those you love lightly, like butterflies, and give them the freedom to float away at their will.
Noa P. Singleton is the product of two dysfunctional parents. Her mother is a constant disappointment. Her father, long-estranged from Noa, is taking tentative steps toward coming back into her life.
Marlene Dixon is a mother who wants the best for her daughter. She is so driven toward this end that she enlists the help of Noa to ensure Sarah follows the path Marlene sees most fit.
And so these two women are linked. Don’t be fooled that their connection starts at the beginning of the book, when Marlene, a high powered attorney, arrives at the prison to inform Noa of her plan to file a clemency appeal. Their connection runs much deeper.
If you are reading this book because you’d like to hear about Noa’s life on death row, you will be disappointed. This book is not about Noa’s life on death row. This book is not even about Noa’s death. The book is about her life and how her choices (with some help from Marlene Dixon) brought her to where she is.
There isn’t a whole lot of joy in these pages. It will not leave you feeling uplifted. But there is that lesson, and if you take heed of it, you may hope to avoid many of the mistakes made by people in this book.
The story of Noa and the events that led her to wind up on Death Row and just months before her execution unfolds as the mother of the girl Noa was convicted of shooting shows up asking for the whys behind it all. We learn about Noa's childhood, the father she never knew, the mother who was to busy with husband # x, and the woman who hired Noa to breakup her daughter's relationship. Noa never fought for herself when she was on trial - she believes she deserves to be there, but the reader has to unfold her stories to truly find out what makes Noa feel this way.
To me, this was an interesting story about Death Row and how individuals end up there. Are they destined to end up there from their childhood? Did our law force truly convict the right person? Did they even look at anyone else? And if you've always been on the short end of the stick, is it right to just give up and assume it's your lot in life?
Was the writing a bit verbose? Sure. Did I want to strangle some of the characters at times? Absolutely. Was I hoping for a different ending? Of course. I saw a little bit of myself in Noa and that only made me want her to fight harder for herself instead of just sitting on Death Row for 10 years. In addition to the "who done it" mystery, I enjoyed how the book made me analyze my judgments and assumptions about those who are sentenced to an execution.
The reviewer from "O" magazine described this as a thriller. Not. You know the premise way too much from the get go and we hear all about this story as if we are reading a diary of all the characters or watching a "Dateline" episode. A few surprises - I was glad to get to the end. I will scrutinize my "thrillers" more carefully in the future.
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