THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON

Elizabeth L Silver

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.

Meanwhile, Marlene Dixon, a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing. She claims to have changed her mind about the death penalty and will do everything in her considerable power to convince the governor to commute Noa’s sentence to life in prison,

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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.

Meanwhile, Marlene Dixon, a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing. She claims to have changed her mind about the death penalty and will do everything in her considerable power to convince the governor to commute Noa’s sentence to life in prison, in return for the one thing Noa can trade: her story. Marlene desperately wants to understand the events that led to her daughter’s death—events that only Noa knows of and has never shared. 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.

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  • Broadway
  • Paperback
  • April 2014
  • 336 Pages
  • 9780385347457

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About Elizabeth L Silver

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.

Praise

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.”Wall Street Journal

“Fantastic first novel…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

Discussion Questions

Do you believe in the death penalty? Did your opinion about the death penalty change after reading this novel?

How did Noa’s self-professed guilt impact how you felt about her as a character?

Do you believe Marlene ever intended to submit the clemency petition? What do you think her motivation was all along, or did it transform as the novel progressed?

How does Noa’s view of Marlene change over the course of the novel? Do you think Noa respects, fears, or pities Marlene more than she hates her?

Why did Caleb not help Noa at trial? What was so important to him that he wouldn’t risk disclosing Marlene’s involvement? Is he weak and selfish, or simply unable to understand the ramifications of his actions? Does Noa regret her relationship with him?

Noa does not help a great deal with her appeals, although she did push forward with a defense at trial. Why do you think Noa decided not to fight for her life once the trial was finished?

On page, 79, Noa talks about earning your own failures when she says, “Failure is not something you can impress upon another. It is something earned, something realized with piquant reward.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

On page 244, Noa says, “A nation that prides itself on equality treats its victims ever so inequitably in ritual.” She is referring specifically to capital punishment, but what else can this apply to? How does this statement represent America, if at all?

There is a noticeable lack of religion in the novel. Was this intentional? Why do you think the author has avoided discussions of religion, which seem to be quite common with death row inmates or individuals close to death?

On pages 306–307, Marlene says that “apologies are really just little weeds that grow over monuments and headstones. They keep coming back, but never stop ruining what lies beneath. If an apology is truly authentic, the pain is supposed to stop. Right?” What do you think this means? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?

Does Marlene actually feel any remorse or guilt by the end of the novel? If so, is it enough? On page 307, she says, “I am not in the dirt beside you, no matter how much I belong.” Does this change your impression of Marlene?

What is the symbolism behind burying Noa’s manuscript at the end of the novel?

If you were on death row, what would be the three things you would miss the most? What would be your final words? What would be your last meal?

What do you think Marlene will do with the information she learns at the end?

All of the characters in The Execution of Noa P. Singleton are imprisoned in some way. With whom did you most sympathize?