The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

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Overview

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...

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The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: A Novel

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of attorney Silver’s searing debut, Noa Singleton, a convicted murderer on Pennsylvania’s death row scheduled to be executed in six months, receives an offer of help from the most unlikely of sources—her pregnant victim’s mother, Marlene Dixon. A high-powered Philadelphia lawyer, Marlene has changed her views on the death penalty and will champion a petition to commute Noa’s sentence to life in prison—if Noa reveals what drove her to kill her one-time University of Pennsylvania classmate. But is this a good-faith offer, or just an attempt by a grief-stricken and guilt-ridden mother to exact some final revenge? The appealing but morally anorexic Noa is left to wonder as she proffers tantalizing peeks of her past (or are they self-serving fictions?), from memories of her narcissistic, manipulative mother to the ex-con father she would have been better off never meeting. This devastating read stands less as a polemic against the death penalty than as a heartbreaking brief for the preciousness of life. Agent: Richard Pine, Inkwell Management. (June)
From the Publisher
BookPage’s 10 Notable Books for June: “A rare thriller that will be equally appealing for beach reading or book club discussion…riveting legal drama.” —BookPage

Like the narrators in recent best-sellers Gone Girl and The Dinner, Noa is endlessly complex and impossible to trust. Don't try to outsmart her — you can't. Just let her manipulate, shock, and maybe even move you. A-“ —Entertainment Weekly

Bracing and combative… a classic slow-burn, with Ms. Silver spinning the web…and masterfully revealing the threads that connect [the characters] to each other and to the crime…The novel proceeds to its heart-wrenching conclusion by a series of feints and betrayals that would make Gillian Flynn stand and applaud.” —The Wall Street Journal

Fantastic first novel…[A] minor flaw doesn’t interfere with the fun of doing some grown-up Nancy Drew sleuthing as the dark mystery unfurls…Silver makes us think critically about capital punishment without ever getting up on a soapbox or turning her great yarn into a civics lesson. As this unstoppable story bounds end-over-end to “X-Day,” we are reminded that everybody is guilty of something. Forgiveness, freedom and peace are rare commodities, and Silver keeps us guessing about whether or not we will find them here.” —Washington Post

I cannot recall a debut novel written more skillfully than The Execution of Noa P. Singleton… It works as a first-rate murder mystery…Suffice it to say that every development harbors surprises, but surprises that seem plausible… Apart from the plotting, why is this novel superb? In large part because Silver is a master at delineating the lines between legal guilt and moral guilt. Is Singleton a murderer according to the law? Maybe, maybe not. Is Singleton a murderer according to societal codes of behavior? Almost certainly… In terms of literary style, Silver reels off memorable sentence after memorable sentence. I look forward to reading her next book.” —Dallas Morning News
 
“In lucid, fast-moving prose, Elizabeth Silver, who comes well-equipped for the task with a JD and an MFA, constructs an intricate and thoughtful psychological thriller.”The San Francisco Chronicle

“A sophisticated debut novel… Silver deftly handles dark and weighty topics without ever sacrificing a literary attention to detail… But Silver is aiming for something more than good writing, satisfyingly complicated characters or a page-turning mysteryThe Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a not just a novel, but a mirror upheld to a fragile, human criminal justice system.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“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 is a talent to watch, a writer able to conjure odd and savagely beautiful images from the mundane.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[A] tense and multi-layered first novel…Noa’s powerful voice, full of attitude and alienation, commands attention throughout the book…In Noa, Silver has created an articulate and intelligent protagonist who asks us to revisit our existing notions of victimhood.” —The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Gripping and introspective first novel…The book revolves around the “why”…It is an emotion-packed style, similar to that used by Lionel Shriver in her acclaimed novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, as the reader tries to come to grips with how much weight should be given to mitigating circumstances in determining guilt or innocence.” —BookPage

“What does one look for in a good novel? Fascinating characters, a terrific plot, depth of thought? Silver delivers all of these and more. Her prose is paradoxically both unflinching and poetic. She creates magic with unsparing truth. Is there innocence disguised within guilt? Is redemption possible? Can punishment truly fit the crime?” —Federal Lawyer

“The wonderful contradiction of the antiheroine is that she cannot help but narrate her story unreliably, most of all to herself…Noa's voice is so pungent and potent as she describes the facts and pooh-poohs the theories of her criminality… We realize the tragic flaw both women share, which is that protecting our loved ones produces greater catastrophe than letting people be. The effect blurs our ability to delineate between criminal and victim, shattering the ‘mucous-thin terrain where most of life resides.’…The antiheroines of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton and The Silent Wife may make it difficult for some readers to like them. But their deeds, however monstrous, are true to their natural character, and command reader attention by cementing their respect—a harder road with a more rewarding payoff.” —The New Republic
 
“Silver gives Noa a voice powerful enough to make us want to know the answers…In Elizabeth Silver's debut novel, a sympathetic anti-heroine reveals a story that is ultimately tragic, yet flecked with dark humor.” —Shelf Awareness

Compelling debut…A clever examination of the nature of destiny and the choices we make, this thought-provoking book is reminiscent of John Grisham’s The Confession in its exploration of the death penalty. Silver has successfully written a suspenseful, absorbing tale. This is a special treat for mystery fans.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“[A] searing debut…This devastating read stands less as a polemic against the death penalty than as a heartbreaking brief for the preciousness of life.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“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 (starred review)

“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

"This is a beautiful and consuming tale revolving around two women who are both torn, both guilty and both looking for some kind of redemption. Elizabeth Silver has set the bar very high for herself with this outstanding debut novel." —Crimespree magazine

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton kept me awake long after I had put it down. Halfway through this gripping novel, in which ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘guilt’ and ‘innocence’ change positions more than once, I thought I was so clever I might know where this story was headed. But I was proved wrong in a way I never could have imagined. Congratulations to Elizabeth L. Silver for a fantastic first book that will keep readers awake all over the world.” —Herman Koch, author of The Dinner

“The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is mortal war between ferocious women, told with a fiery and merciless lyricism so beautiful it hurts.” —Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
 
“The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is an intense and gripping novel of betrayal and guilt that forces readers to confront their convictions and the limitations of their capacity for empathy. Elizabeth L. Silver is a gifted new writer, and her novel is certain to be a smash.” —Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother
 
“In The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, Elizabeth Silver puts the human factor front and center, to devastating effect.  Guilt and innocence, capital punishment, the living hell of death row, all these get their due, but at the heart of it is us, the ongoing mystery of what lies inside our souls.” —Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Smart, cool, articulate, funny, and savvy—Noa P. Singleton dares you to put her story down.” —Rosamund Lupton, author of Sister

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is an almost weirdly gripping thriller, presented in teasing slow motion. Author Elizabeth L. Silver displays a wicked genius for sucking us into a black maelstrom of nebulous uncertainty, making our need to find out the truth all the more urgent. Believe the hype: this is quite the irresistible page-turner.” —BookReporter.com

“A thoughtful book which keeps turning itself upside down with new revelations about the protagonist, antagonist and several other characters. The book is mostly narrated by Noa, but the chapters end with letters written by the victim's mother to her deceased daughter. The trial scenes were fascinating, and the selection of the jury was hilarious. But best of all, the book made you think, not only about the nature of the death penalty but about the judicial system as well. Ms. Silver managed to write a fascinating book, told by an unreliable narrator which manages to tell a fascinating story in shades of gray. There are no good guys or bad guys in the story, everyone has their own demons within them, trying to make things right in their own head. —Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Elizabeth L. Silver is a writer to watch out for, one of great scope and passion. Here she tackles a bold topic with skill, compassion and verve." —Jill Dawson, author of Orange and Whitbred nominated Fred & Edie, The Great Lover, and Lucky Bunny

“Exploring good and evil in a thought provoking yet entertaining fashion, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver reads surprisingly quickly. With murder, the death penalty and the quality of justice called into question, morality becomes an increasingly slippery slope.” —Campus Circle

“Truly mesmerising…a remarkable novel by a young American writer…As well as functioning with great authority on the narrative level, this is a book with something to say — but Silver never imports ideological points at the expense of gripping storytelling.”   —Barry Forshaw, Crime Time

Haunting…Silver writes poetically with an adeptness that marks her out as a debut author to watch…A genuinely compulsive novel that can't be set aside until the last page is turned. Noa P might not be a literary heroine you will fall in love with, but you will find it hard to let her go.” —Express (UK)

Kirkus Reviews
Trained as a lawyer, Silver has written a darkly witty, acerbic jigsaw puzzle of a first novel about legal versus moral culpability. No one, including the title character, disputes that 25-year-old college dropout Noa shot Sarah Dixon, her former classmate at Penn, in her Philadelphia apartment. She was found guilty and sentenced to be executed for the capital crime of murdering both Sarah and the unborn child she was carrying, her apparent motive excessive envy that Sarah's lover was Noa's long-estranged father, Caleb. After 10 years in prison, Noa has only six months left before what she calls X-Day when Sarah's mother visits. A successful lawyer herself, Marlene fought for Noa to receive the death sentence but claims she has recently had a change of heart. Having founded Mothers Against Death, Marlene plans to file a clemency appeal for Noa. Ollie, the idealist young lawyer Marlene has employed as her assistant, asks Noa to tell him about herself, supposedly to build a sympathetic case. Noa suspects Marlene's motives but slowly opens up to attractive, sympathetic Ollie. Parceling bits of her history, Noa comes across as prickly and defensive, the kind of defendant that jurors (and readers) automatically distrust. Meanwhile, Marlene writes letters to her dead daughter that show her as a dominating, judgmental woman who bears her own share of guilt for interfering in Sarah's life out of obsessive maternal love--although Caleb, a creepy, aging ex-con with a violent past, would be every mother's nightmare. In stark contrast to Sarah, Noa was raised by an inattentive, single mother in California and did not meet Caleb until her early 20s when he was already involved with Sarah, a wildly inappropriate affair explicable only as Sarah's rebellion against Marlene. As Noa, Marlene and, by extension, Caleb duel to justify their actions, no one comes out unscathed. Like Suzanne Rendell in the novel The Other Typist (2013), Silver 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385347433
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 141,932
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

ELIZABETH L. SILVER grew up in New Orleans and Dallas and currently lives in Los Angeles.  She holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in England, and a JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law. She has taught ESL in Costa Rica, writing and literature at several universities in Philadelphia, and worked as a research attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

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.

“Noa, is it?” he said, speaking impossibly close to the receiver. “Noa Singleton?”

The aristocratic Noa is it? British phrasing of his greeting skipped upward at the end of the statement as if it were a posh question in one syllable. Confidence and naïveté burst in the same hyperenunciated greeting.

“My name is Oliver Stansted and I’m a lawyer in Philadelphia,” he said, looking down to his little script. His was handwritten in red ink. “I work for a nonprofit organization that represents inmates on death row and at various other points of the appeals process, and I’ve just recently been appointed to your case.”

“Okay,” I said, staring at him.

He was not the first wide-eyed advocate to use me as a bullet point on his climb to success. I was used to these unexpected visits: the local news reporters shortly after I was arrested, the national ones after my conviction, the appointed appellate lawyers year after begrudging year as I was drafted into the futile cycle of appeals without anyone truly listening to me explain that I had no interest in pursuing further legal action, that I just wanted to get to November 7 as quickly as possible. They, like this new one, had no concern for my choices.

“So what do you want with me?” I asked. “I’m out of appeals. They’re killing me in November. ‘First woman to fry in years.’ You read the news, don’t you?”

Mr. Oliver Stansted forced another smile to replicate the one that had deflated while I spoke. He ran his fingers through his hair, pulling it out of the clean part on the side, all in order to appear the very image of a public interest lawyer; a die-hard anti–death penalty advocate who chose to marry the alleged system of justice instead of entering a legal union of his own. And, like all the others who came to me before the middle-age conversion of Republicanism set in, even his voice was typecast to match his hairstyle and choice of wardrobe: docile as a prostrated ocean, as if he had slipped from his mother’s womb begging for a nonprofit position and studio apartment to match. I hated him instantly.

“Well, despite the fact that you’re out of appeals, I’ve been chatting with some of your lawyers, and--”

“--which ones?” I jumped. “Stewart Harris? Madison McCall?”

I’d been sitting in this cubicle for nearly a decade listening to a veritable rainbow of lawyers talk at me about the lowly little trial attorneys they thought screwed me over.

“Tell me this, Mr. Oliver Stansted. Why am I supposed to sit here and destroy their careers just so you can feel like you’re doing the right thing?”

He smiled again as if I had just complimented him.

“Well, I have spoken with Mr. Harris about some of the things that happened at your trial.”

“Harris is useless. What about McCall?”

He nodded and I could tell he’d prepared for this visit.

“Unfortunately, he’s since passed.”

“Passed?” I laughed. “No euphemisms here, Oliver. Ollie. Look around. I don’t think any one of us deserves a gentler explanation. What was it? Cancer? AIDS? I knew he slept around. Maybe it was syphilis.”

“There was a fire at his office,” he conceded. “He wasn’t able to get out in time. He died from smoke inhalation.”

My head nodded three short times. Things like this weren’t supposed to impact people like me.

“I see,” I finally said.

“I’ve also spoken to some of your appellate lawyers,” he added, moving on. “The habeas ones.”

“What did they tell you? That I was abused by my uncle? That I’m mentally unstable? That I didn’t mean to do it? That there’s something in my past that should give the court cause to spare me?”

I waited for a comeback. They always have one. It’s like law school trains these junkies to masticate language as if it’s gum. Stick a slice in your mouth, chew on it, blow it full of hot air, and then spit it on the ground when it no longer tastes good.

“No,” he said. “Not exactly.”

“So why are you here, then? I’ve come to terms. It’s over.” He followed my lips as I spoke, as if the Plexiglas between us stifled his voice. “And if I’m okay with it, you should be okay with it. You don’t even know me.”

“The thing is, we really do believe that you could be a good case for clemency.”

“We?” I asked.

“Yes, we think you’re in a remarkably unique position that could make a strong case for filing a clemency petition.”

And there we had it, the perennial reason for the visit. A deep-seated desire to right a wrong. Or wrong a right. Or right a wrong that was done rightly for someone who did something wrong. But there was nothing more to hear. He might as well have handed over another stack of appeals, new evidence on my behalf--all futile attempts of desperation that nearly every other person with a JD who’s met me has already tried.

“You think I’m wrongly convicted, don’t you?” I smiled. “You want to start your career off with a bowl of karma so big you’ll be set for all the nasty stuff you’ll do in the future when you work for a multinational bank or reinsurance company or something like that. Am I right?”

He didn’t reply at first.

“I’m right, right?”

Again, no reply.

I sighed. “Please.”

He looked around cautiously. “Innocence is always a factor to discuss, especially when dealing with executions.” He almost whispered, placing extra emphasis on the word innocence, as if it actually meant something to him alone.

The truth is, at one point, I did contemplate my innocence, but it was short lived, like adolescent lust or a craving for chocolate.

“Did you know, Ollie, that there are, like, five thousand lonely women in Europe who are dying to marry all the men in prison?” He didn’t respond. I don’t think he was amused. “You’re British, right?”

“Technically yes.” He nodded, not realizing I was barely listening. “I’m actually Welsh. I was born in Cardiff.”

“Well then. Guess how many Welsh Romeos we women have?”

Mute. He was mute.

I lifted my hand to my mouth as a whisper cone. “I’ll give you a clue. It’s the same amount as the Russian ones.”

Still nothing. His reticence wasn’t much of a surprise. Silence in retaliation did have its roots in proper places. After all, he walked in trying to act like Atticus Finch but didn’t realize that smug complacence on the body of a pale-skinned soccer player from Wales wasn’t exactly the most effective legal tactic.

“Ollie, you’ve got to be quick on your toes if you want to make it with the likes of these other defense attorneys,” I said, snapping my fingers. “They come in here semiannually, begging for my free hour a day, you know. Come on, you can do better.”

When he didn’t kick the ball back my way, I figured that was that for this umpteenth self-righteous solicitor.

“Fair enough,” I said, and then put the phone down. “Guard!”

“Noa, please listen,” he finally said, faintly. I could barely hear his words leaking from the receiver in my resting hand. “Please pick up the phone.”

He held out a hand to the division. Four of his fingers kissed the Plexiglas wall so that I could see their blueprints, little lines curved within the cushion of his surprisingly meaty fingertips. Their heat fogged the glass.

“We very much would like to talk to you.”

I waited for him to follow that statement with a name, but not one materialized. I almost turned away when he knocked again on the Plexiglas wall, imploring me to listen. A name drifted faintly through the noise. Hands pantomimed, beseeching me to pick up the receiver. Place it near your ear, I heard. Almost ten years after my incarceration, staring at that mismatched set of Welsh teeth, I could have sworn that Ollie Stansted was saying Sarah’s mother’s name.

“We?” I asked, eventually picking up the receiver.

He smiled, relieved.

“I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Marlene Dixon, and she believes that you should live. That is why we believe--the both of us--that you’re a viable candidate for clemency. It usually is a routine, dead-end last option, but because of her relationship with both . . .”

I stopped listening at “viable.” The last of his imprints had faded on the Plexiglas, and all that was left was a greasy translucent wall. It was the only thing I could focus on at that moment. The thick manufactured division between those who live and those who, well, live another way.

“Really,” I finally replied. “Marlene . . . ?”

The polysyllabic connection of letters that spelled out Mahrrrr-leeen Dihhhck-sunn brought me to nauseous self-flagellation every time I heard it, so for the last ten years, I’ve tried never to think of those sounds together. Ollie, clearly trying to think on his toes to compete no doubt with the likes of people just like Marlene Dixon, didn’t stop to listen to what I was saying, or not saying, or intimating, or, I don’t know, protesting in unrepentant silence. He was a quick learner--at least that’s one thing to admire about him on first impression.

“Mrs. Dixon has recently started a nonprofit organization called Mothers Against Death and doesn’t feel that even the cruelest of killers deserves to be murdered by the state. I’m one of the attorneys volunteering with MAD.”

The four syllables of her name continued reverberating in the telephone wire between us like a plucked string on a guitar.

“Mothers Against Death?” I said, forcing a laugh.

“Uh‑huh,” he said.

“Mothers Against Death?” I said again, this time, actually feeling the humor flush through my voice. “You’re kidding? MAD? Mad, like, you mean, like, angry?”

Oliver Stansted swallowed and looked back down to his lonely feet before pulling out a stack of papers. “Well, yes, M‑A‑D.” He spelled out the acronym, pausing between each letter with perfect diction. It must have been that trusty Oxbridgian education. Pygmalionesque right down to the pronunciation of the English language.

“Isn’t that a drunk driving group? Has she been sued yet for copyright infringement?” I laughed. “Oh, wouldn’t that be poetic.”

“That’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD,” he corrected, punctuating the extra D with discernible effort.

“MADD,” I recited, enunciating the monosyllabic word as clearly as possible. “MAD,” I tried again in the same inflection, as if articulating the difference between their and they’re. “They sound the same to me.”

“Please,” he said, rather impatiently.

“So what is it that the formidable Mrs. Dixon wants with me?” I finally asked. “Last I checked, I’m fairly certain she wanted to witness the execution. She testified at my penalty hearing, you know.”

I couldn’t tell if he already knew this or if he was still waiting on that memo to arrive at his desk.

“I believe she said that she thought the death penalty was the single most profound form of punishment to grace our nation’s system of justice, and one that should be reserved for only the most egregious of crimes and the most horrific of people who could be stopped by no other means than deactivating their path of terror.” I paused, flipping through the library of scenes in my mind. “And, if I remember correctly, she declared that, quote, ‘no person more suitably fit into the suit of a deserving body of that precious designer as did Noa P. Singleton.’ Closed quote,” I dictated.

Oliver Stansted pulled out a legal pad, clicked the top of a ballpoint pen, and placed them both on the table.

“Did she tell you that?” I asked.

“Well, things have changed for her since then.”

“Have they?”

“Like I said, she formed this organization--”

“--right, you said. Mothers Against Drunk Driving--”

“--and she no longer believes, as you say, that the death penalty is the most profound form of punishment.”

Mr. Stansted, refusing to acknowledge me, continued as if he had planned this speech for days and would get through it no matter the cost.

“She now believes it to be archaic, barbaric, and contrary to any goal that can be found in your country’s history and purpose.” Oliver stopped speaking for a full fifteen seconds before he continued. “Are you following?”

“Oh yes. Perfectly. But what if I believe in the death penalty? What if I actually believe in ‘an eye for an eye’?”

He stared directly back at me as if he believed I was lying. As if his beliefs were superior to mine, merely because he had an accent and, once upon a time, I had a tan.

“You don’t really believe that, do you, Noa?” He folded his arms, the right on top of his left. “I know you don’t actually believe that.”

“Mr. Stansted, come on. I’m not looking for sympathy.”

“There are so few statistics from appeals for executions that have been turned down at this level--at the point of clemency, the absolute last moment to save a life,” he pleaded. “We have to do it. We need to do it. Whether it works or not, we need to know the pattern of the governor at this point in the process. If groups like MAD and others can’t see and document patterns--the patterns of the judges and juries for sending inmates to death row, the patterns for the appellate courts for affirming those sentences, and now this final pattern of governors who deny final requests for clemency--it will be harder to present a proper image to the public of how egregious this system is. Without those statistics, the government is never going to realize what sort of laws it perpetuates. This barbarism, this ancient form of punishment that offers no deterrence whatsoever to . . .”

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    This is an amazing debut novel from Elizabeth L. Silver. The rel

    This is an amazing debut novel from Elizabeth L. Silver. The relationship between the convicted murder Noa and the victim's mother Marlene is a fantastic voyage of words. I highly recommend this book.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a remarkable debut novel fr

    The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a remarkable debut novel from Elizabeth L. Silver. The characters are well developed. The plot is interesting and well timed. I would highly recommend this book as a great summer read.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Silver writes Noa's incarceration scenes with empathy and integr

    Silver writes Noa's incarceration scenes with empathy and integrity. The reader is dropped into a world not many of us know (thank goodness), and Noa's sense of isolation is palpable. Noa comes to believe that she belongs there, saying"it's the internal acceptance that finally you have become the person you were meant to be. When you enter, true, you are given a new number, a new residence, and a new wardrobe; but is is only when you place those garments upon your limbs that realize they were meant for no one but you. No former splinters of your personality carry over into prison life. No relationships, fictional or otherwise, accompany them either. Any superficial intimacy you claim to have experienced with another (whether consanguineous or not) when you wore any color other than cocoa brown fades as quickly as a puff of smoke. You are now the person everyone knows you to be."Reading this deeply affecting novel will have you questioning the use and human cost of capital punishment. Silver sprinkles in some jaw-dropping revelations, from secret relationships to incidents in the Noa's past that are stunning and also explain much of Noa's willingness to accept her fate. The suspense here is so well done.
    The Execution of Noa P. Singleton put me in mind of another novel I read with an unreliable female character- Marcy Dermanksy's Bad Marie. They have the same dark tone, and unforgettable protagonists.
    If you like a story that will make you think and question human nature, this is the novel for you. I'm still thinking about it days after I have finished it. Silver's debut novel has me looking for more from her in the future.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved this book. Couldn't put it down. Two thumbs up!

    Loved this book. Couldn't put it down. Two thumbs up!

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a stellar debut novel about

    The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a stellar debut novel about a convicted killer awaiting execution and her reflections on different relationships in her life, most importantly those with her parents. It really causes you to pause and think about capital punishment.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2013

    The story was okay, but the quality of the writing is terrible--

    The story was okay, but the quality of the writing is terrible--it reads like it was rushed to print without any editing at all. Typos and purple prose galore. I got it on sale and still feel like I overpaid. It detracts from the reader's enjoyment and the author's and publisher's reputations when such a shoddy job is presented as a finished product.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    Eh...

    It is pretty obvious that Elizabeth L. Silver wanted to impress with her debut novel about a woman, Noa P. Singleton, who is on Death Row & the story that brought her there. Unfortunately, Noa is rather unlikeable--as are most of the characters--& Silver comes off as a bit pretentious; did she have to use the thesaurus every other word to describe this & that? And although smart sounding, I was only looking for a beach read, not a legal course, or trial summary, or jackass characters.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The reader is introduced to Noa Singleton six months from ¿X-Day

    The reader is introduced to Noa Singleton six months from “X-Day” – November 7 – the day the State of Pennsylvania has scheduled to execute her for a murder she committed ten years previously.  Throughout her arrest, trial and sentencing she did not deny or admit the crime, neither did she participate in her defense.  In the ten years she has been in prison, she has not spoken of the events that brought her to this point in life. On this day, she has a visitor, an occurrence that was so rare that she initially did not realize she was being taken to the prison visitor’s area.  This visitor is the mother of the woman she murdered and the lawyer the mother hired to develop a clemency plea for Noa.  The remainder of the book fills in the gaps of how Noa arrived on Death Row.
    Through the process of getting to know Noa Singleton, from her birth to the close of the book, is wrenching.  The product, according her mother, “of a one night stand,” Noa never knew her father.  Her mother, a sometime B-List actress, was more interested in having a male companion than being a parent.  Noa was a good student, graduating as Salutatorian of her high school class and gained admittance to Penn State where her tenure lasted less than a semester.  As the reader learns more of Noa’s story, the more confusing her being incarcerated becomes.  There is nothing in what is learned that explains her actions that have led to her awaiting being put to death.  I had to read the moment of revelation that lies behind her abhorrent behavior twice, as it was so unexpected and shocking.
    The title appears to be too graphic, revealing the end of the story before the book is read.  In the reading, “execution” is revealed to be multilayered. Execution as “sentence” for Capital Murder is evident and understandable within the story.  Execution as “action” is repeatedly given description and painted in vivid colors.  Execution as “precision in action” is the point of tension that gives this book its punch.  Execution as “implementation” is so shocking, and comes from such unexpected directions that I was given to anger, sadness and surprise on repeated occasions.  Execution as “accomplishment” ends the book and, the completeness of the ending, left me feeling the existential angst of being “undone”.  The Execution mentioned in the title is focused upon Noa P. Singleton, but its action has her only as its starting point.
    This book is part rant against the death penalty, part rave in support of “the Ultimate Punishment,” part study of the power of guilt and loss, a portion of revenge in hopes of redemption and eventually a story of that part of the human condition where one realizes too late the cost of actions and the value of what one once held so carelessly.  There is adult language, but not in abundance, no graphic sexual moments but plenty of painful moments regarding the lives of all those connected in this story.  
    In the end, no one is left unscathed in this tale.  Noa accepted her abandonment as her due.  Her victim was caught in a moment of attempted restoration. Her victim’s mother sought answers by asking the wrong questions and was left bereft of solace. Her lawyer was faced with the reality of his profession.  The reader arrived at the end having tasted of the possibility of how complete a life can be in the most astounding of ways.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A morbid centra

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

    A morbid central plot, but presented in an interesting way with the person on death row telling the story popping in to the past and back to the present to catch the reader up on all the important details.  Noa P. Singleton is awaiting her execution day and it has been set, but out of the blue comes the mother of her victim claiming to help her get clemency and this is where the real story begins.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2013

    Decent Read

    I had higher hopes for this book, but it was ok. I thought there would be more twists and turns, but sadly it was fairly predictable. If you like crime type mysteries and want an easy read then you might enjoy it. The characters were good and the tension built throughout the novel, but in the end there was no satisfying climax or surprise.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2013

    The Best Book I¿ve Read in a While Noa has 6 months to live, th

    The Best Book I’ve Read in a While

    Noa has 6 months to live, the state of PA is going to execute her for the murder of a young girl. Her newest attorney, who believes he can get her clemency, has no idea where to start, so he asks her to share her life story.
    As we travel though her past and combine it with her present, we are treated to a spell-binding story, full of intrigue, mystery, and enough twists and turns to keep the pages flipping.
    A brilliant novel that begs to be shared with as many friends as possible.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2013

    Decent book

    I really enjoyed this book. Not your typical "nice" characters. The author makes you wonder why and there is enough suspence to keep you reading to find out why.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A study of a convicted murderer on death row, as her life is rec

    A study of a convicted murderer on death row, as her life is recounted in the final months awaiting her execution, is the subject of this first novel by an author with three college degrees, including one in law. At the same time, it delves into her relationship with her mother, her father, and others who have interacted with her, especially Marlene, the mother of the victim, who is not a particularly sympathetic character.

    There is no suspense with regard to the ultimate execution of Noa P. Singleton, this fact is included in the title. Whatever suspense exists derives from the introduction of a possible clemency petition by the mother of the murder victim, a well-known Philadelphia attorney. Who, by the way, initially demanded the death penalty and then supposedly years later approached Noa on behalf of an organization she founded, Mothers Against Death, claiming a change of heart.

    Apparently, a major point of the novel is the juxtaposition of Noa and Marlene and their motivations. About the only truly insightful looks into Marlene are in the form of letters to her daughter following her death, and these are really superficial and lack sufficient depth to create either sympathy for the mother or deeper knowledge as to why she has acted as she did. To tell the truth, for this reader the writing was too wordy, and the novel’s construction somewhat artificial.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2014

    This is a book that I¿ve had on my TBR list for a year now. Aft

    This is a book that I’ve had on my TBR list for a year now. After reading quite a few books for tours, I decided it was time to take this one out to read. Before reading the book, it is hard for anyone to pick this book up and not already have an opinion about the death penalty and the inmates on death row. However, regardless of a reader’s stance on the prison system, the judicial system, and crimes/punishments, this book is about the story of one woman: a woman who could really be anyone that grew up in a single parent home, with a promiscuous lifestyle, who has a father that has been in and out of prison all his of life. Her life could have turned out so much differently, being the salutatorian for her high school class, being accepted into Yale, and trying to make a life for herself. However, her past is always haunting her and she is never fully able to forgive herself and move on.

    Noa is only 10 months old when she has her first experience with lies and the judicial system. Her first experience is that of her mother, who is a struggling actress that makes a rash judgement to protect herself from the possibility of jail or child services. This stays with Noa. Honestly, I don’t have any recollection before the age of 4, but this seems to be ingrained in Noa (or not), as she says that her memory is foggy and it’s hard to separate fact from fantasy. However, I somehow believe her because it starts the cycle of loss, feeling less than, isolation, and hopelessness.

    While the story is told through Noa’s viewpoint, the reader will get glimpses inside Marlene’s head, through her letters to her daughter (Sarah), who is murdered. While Noa’s life is that of someone who is tragically put in the line of fire due to circumstances by her parents, it is Marlene’s story that most interested me.

    Marlene is a woman of influence, with a lot of money, who realizes early on that she really has no control over her daughter-her only child. Paying off someone to follow her daughter and then threatening both that person and the boyfriend, doesn’t end there. Marlene decides to mask her way back into Noa’s life, under the guise of MAD (Mothers Against Death), to find out what happened to her daughter’s last moments of life. In some ways, Noa vindicates herself because she doesn’t give Marlene those last moments, although I don’t Marlene truly wanted to know. I think Marlene has loads of guilt, hidden under her callousness towards others and her brashness, and she somehow wants to know that Noa doesn’t blame her for the events that happened leading up to Sarah’s death. In some ways, if Noa doesn’t place any blame on Marlene, then Marlene can feel justified in her own role with Sarah’s death.

    In the end, everyone wants something from Noa: her compliance, her silence, her devotion-and when they get that-they leave. In the end, the judicial system only hears what attorneys want the jurors to hear, rich people get passes, poor people get passed the buck, and our system is truly screwed.

    But there is hope. There is hope, everyday, with the choices people make as humans, as parents, as children, as a society.

    This is a book that is very character driven, with not a lot of unraveling until 200 pages in, but it’s still a great book. It is at times dry, and sometimes it seems that the novel drifts, but be patient- there is a reason for it all. I don’t think this book can be read without discussing it afterwards. It’s what makes this book unique-because the dialogue continues long after Noa’s story, long after Marlene’s and long after the last page. It is thought provoking, would make for a great book club discussion, and also in a class to talk about family cycles, the judicial system, and victims of circumstance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2014

    Interesting mystery

    The narrator is a young woman who is a death-row inmate. We slowly learn about her crime and the others involved. While none of the characters are especially likeable, I did feel sympathetic toward the narrator. I enjoyed reading this on my nook because I used the built-in dictionary a lot due to the challenging vocabulary!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2014

    Compeling read

    An intricate life story with jaw

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  • Posted March 31, 2014

    Engaging read.

    Engaging read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2013




    Jkk. Aja

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    Outstanding

    This is the best book I have read in a long time. The writing is superb. Noa is a remarkable character. The story line simply amazing. Looking forward to the next book.

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  • Posted August 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Exe­cu­tion of Noa P. Sin­gle­ton by Eliz­a­beth L. Sil­ver

    The Exe­cu­tion of Noa P. Sin­gle­ton by Eliz­a­beth L. Sil­ver is a novel about our cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment sys­tem tak­ing place mostly in Philadel­phia. This is Ms. Silver’s, a lawyer who worked on death penalty cases, debut novel.

    Noa P. Sin­gle­ton is await­ing exe­cu­tion for the mur­der of her father’s preg­nant girl­friend. As the months pass and her exe­cu­tion date gets closer, Noa is vis­ited by Mar­lene Dixon, mother of her victim.

    Mar­lene Dixon is a pow­er­ful attor­ney, she promises Noa that if she’ll tell her why she killed her daugh­ter, she will try and get the gov­er­nor to com­mute the sen­tence from death to life in prison. But Noa has her own agenda, and Mar­lene is some­how involved.

    The Exe­cu­tion of Noa P. Sin­gle­ton by Eliz­a­beth L. Sil­ver is a thought­ful book which keeps turn­ing itself upside down with new rev­e­la­tions about the pro­tag­o­nist, antag­o­nist and sev­eral other char­ac­ters. The book is mostly nar­rated by Noa but the chap­ters end with let­ters writ­ten by the victim’s mother to her deceased daughter.

    The trial scenes were fas­ci­nat­ing and the selec­tion of the jury was hilar­i­ous. But best of all, the book made you think, not only about the nature of the death penalty but about the judi­cial sys­tem as well. Ms. Sil­ver man­aged to write a fas­ci­nat­ing book, told by an unre­li­able nar­ra­tor which man­ages to tell a fas­ci­nat­ing story in shades of gray. There are no good guys or bad guys in the story, every­one has their own demons within them, try­ing to make things right in their own head.

    In each chap­ter the reader dis­cov­ers some new rev­e­la­tion about Noa and her rela­tion­ship to the sup­port­ing cast. The reader also dis­cov­ers Noa’s state of mind while on death row, her accep­tance to the sit­u­a­tion she is in and her life­long story which landed her behind bars.

    The Exe­cu­tion of Noa P. Sin­gle­ton is an astute story which brings up many ques­tions about human nature and the jus­tice sys­tem. The book’s dark tones and story will stay with the reader for a while after one turns over the last page.

    claimer: I got this book for free

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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