Friday, October 11, 2013

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

Title:  The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
Author:  Elizabeth L. Silver
Publication Information:  Crown Publishers, Crown Publishing Group, Random House Inc. 2013. 320 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book because it sounded like it has an interesting premise.

Favorite Quote:  "When you try to find the answer or explanation for a law, a scientific discovery, a tumor, and you can't identify its reasons, then you just cut it out. Surgically remove anything potentially cantankerous. Cauterize society around it so that we'll never know the real answer."

Noa P. Singleton is a death row inmate, convicted of capital murder. As the reader meets her, she has been on death row for many years and is now a short time away from her  execution date. Enter into the picture - two attorneys - one who is young and idealistic and one who happens to be the mother of Noa's victim. Through Noa's recollections, the book brings the reader through her life, particularly the months prior to the crime.

The characters in this are not likable. Noa appears to have no interest in her own life or trying to save it. Marlene is a grieving mother, but as the book slowly reveals, her motives go beyond that grief. Noa's family includes her mother who has not reached out to her since her arrest and conviction and her father who was absent for most of her life.

The premise of the book is a strong one, dealing with issues like capitol punishment and the impact childhood has on adult life. Unfortunately, the execution of that premise is lacking for two primary reasons.

First, the author's writing style, particularly some of the descriptions, distract from the story itself. For example, papers and evidence "eviscerate, peeling into orange curls and blackened petals in the crematorium of dead documents". A beating heart is described as "the beat of those four musicians ... making their own metronome of quarter notes, eighth notes, half notes". Rather than adding to the story, these descriptions seem out of place.

Second, the first half of the book builds a storyline with Noa, her relationship with her father, and the events surrounding her crime, and her lack of interest in saving her own life. Unfortunately, the resolution and the "reveal" of Noa's motivations for her actions goes in a completely different direction. Without a spoiler, let me just say it was a disappointment.

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