If you're looking for a book with the same style of breathless suspense and anticipation that hovered in the air while reading last year's New York Times Best Selling Novel GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (my review), you'll be pleased to know that it has finally arrived. Other books claimed to be like GONE GIRL. I recently read RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA by Kimberly McCreight on author Jodi Picoult's recommendation, which I didn't feel gave me the same emotional connection. I just picked up an ARC of an upcoming September release, MOTHER, MOTHER by Koren Zailckas from an imprint that also published THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON (TEONPS) and seems to be looking for the next GONE GIRL with these two releases. TEONPS gave me the same types of emotions I had when reading GONE GIRL. I wanted to know the truth behind the crime, what really did or didn't happen. I wanted to dig a little deeper. There were deplorable characters (though not so bad as you-know-who) and characters you wanted to know more about. There were surprises I never saw coming. My brain had to work as I read, and I came up with all kinds of theories and possibilities for that night.
Noa P. Singleton is sitting on Pennsylvania's Death Row awaiting execution for the death of a girl named Sarah. She's scheduled to be executed in six months and is making peace when Sarah's mother Marlene suddenly re-appears and seemingly wants to overturn the death sentence placed upon Noa's head for a life-in-prison sentence instead. Why the sudden change of heart now? Why would Marlene create an advocacy group called MAD (Mothers Against Death)? Marlene says she wants to know the truth behind what happened, since Noa never took the stand during her trial. She never said she was innocent, but she never plead guilty, either. Time has blurred Noa's memories, and she doesn't remember everything as well as she once did. She doesn't want to reflect on her past and interact with Marlene, especially since she doesn't know what's really motivating the woman's inquiries. Over the course of the novel, many truths come out, creating a novel that's hard to put down until everything is revealed.
One thing I really like about TEONPS is that it's smart. Not every novel has such an elevated writing style, and I always appreciate it when I find unique styles of writing. You can see it shining through just in the above hook. It did, at times, feel a little "at me" the way Lionel Shriver's WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN did, but I didn't have the same struggle to continue on that I did with the former (And this was also largely my problem with RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA and even, recently, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky. I tend to struggle with epistolary novels). Noa isn't the most reliable character in literature, which makes her revelations tenser as readers draw closer. Sometimes it's hard to embrace her despite her quirky personality, but it's also hard to love Sarah's driven mother Marlene. This doesn't hinder the book at all, however, but adds new layers and nuances that may not have otherwise came about. I disliked characters in GONE GIRL, too, and it's supposed to be that way. Same here. I really appreciate the intensity and brainpower that comes with this type of novel. As a reader who tends to guess a book's outcome way too easily--sometimes within the first couple of chapters--unpredictable books like these feel like refreshing breaths of cool air.