{Review} THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON by Elizabeth L. Silver

O P E N I N G   L I N E:
IT ALL STARTED SIX MONTHS BEFORE X-DAY WHEN OLIVER Stansted and Marlene Dixon visited the Pennsylvania Institute for Women in Muncy. Oliver trotted eagerly in first, like a wet surfer trying so desperately not to miss his second wave. He had thin brown hair that hung limply around the cherry contour of his face in a style that was probably at least a decade behind the times. (I know this because it was the hairstyle of choice when I was arrested.) A lone dimple nicked the center of his chin in a clean gunshot. 

I was in the diminutive holding cell with the telephone receivers where they dragged me whenever I had a visitor. Visitors weren't rare--a story for the local newspaper? a feature for a news magazine television series? a book deal/--but when Oliver Stansted came up for his first breath, firm but anxious, steady but nervous, twenty, maybe twenty-five, I realized that my expectations would quickly need readjustment.
(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

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.

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Outwardly simple, this book is hiding a little fun that you won't  notice unless you're holding it! The red strike through is raised, giving it texture, and lending an angry air to the design. There are so many nuances to the word "Execution," too, and there are many layers to the meaning behind this title.

I prefer this to a morbid cover. Striking out one's name is just as effective as showing something as grisly as an execution or a murder scene, and less shocking. More people will pick it up with this cover for sure! 

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Elizabeth L. Silver
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Crown / Random House
Received: Borrowed

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.


  1. Well, this looks interesting.
    I like the idea, and the cover is really pretty
    GREAT review
    Your reader,


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