The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: A Novel
by Elizabeth L. Silver
Hardcover: 320 pages
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An unforgettable and unpredictable debut novel of guilt, punishment, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive
Noa P. Singleton never spoke a word in her own defense throughout a brief trial that ended with a jury finding her guilty of first-degree murder. Ten years later, having accepted her fate, 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 mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing. Marlene 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, in return for the one thing Noa is unwilling to trade: her story.
Marlene desperately wants Noa to reveal the events that led to her daughter’s death – events that Noa has never shared with a soul. With death looming, Marlene believes that Noa may finally give her the answers she needs, though Noa is far from convinced that Marlene deserves the salvation she alone can deliver. Inextricably linked by murder but with very different goals, Noa and Marlene wrestle with the sentences life itself can impose while they confront the best and worst of what makes us human in this haunting tale of love, anguish, and deception.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: Smart, quick and disarmingly direct, the eponymous heroine of this stunning debut is a twenty-something college dropout on death row for murder in Pennsylvania. Did Noa P. Singleton actually kill the daughter of the woman now agitating for the state to commute her death sentence? And if so (or even if not) why is Sarah Dixon’s mom, who writes letters to her dead daughter throughout, so anxious for Noa to be cleared? If those were the only questions, this would have been an average thriller. Thanks to very complex characters (particularly Caleb, Noa’s mostly absent father who not coincidentally is sleeping with Sarah) and jagged, jarring prose--a gun sits in a backpack “awkwardly like an adult in a kindergarten class”; Noa declines to occupy the passenger seat on her lawyer’s “virginal ride to salvation”--and a plot that twists and turns but never neatly resolves, it’s genius: a pithy, funny, sad story about truth and lies, and whether we ever really, truly know the difference. --Sara Nelson
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