Friday, August 9, 2013
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver
If you like: inmates * blackmail * manipulation
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton tells the story of murder, and the elaborate circumstances that led to it. Noa has led a life full of disappointments and hardships. She had an absent father for most of her life, and a mother who was too concerned with her boyfriends and acting to be affectionate with her daughter. Eventually Noa is reunited with her father, and they develop a tentative relationship, though she anticipates he will disappear again before too long. In the present, Noa is on death row for the murder of Sarah, and to the amazement of many, does very little to defend herself from the charges.
The story is elaborately layered through a series of interviews, flashbacks, letters, and memories. There are many different versions of what happens, and Noa seems determined to conceal the true nature of the events within these layers. This narrative does not jump around in a confusing way; instead, it slowly reveals the truth to the reader, often turning assumptions on their heads. There is no reliable narrator in the story. Each character has something concealed, and is very hesitant to reveal the truth. What seems like a straightforward case has so many components that the reader will keep guessing about what truly happened.
At its heart, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a story of guilt. Noa has spent her life running from the guilt surrounding the death of her childhood best friend. Her repentance of this loss drives much of her conduct, and makes her unwilling to admit her true role in Sarah's death. Caleb, Noa's father, also struggles with the demons of his past. He yearns to finally develop a relationship with his estranged daughter, but continues to repeat the mistakes of his past. His actions with Sarah only hurt this relationship further, and compounds the guilt that eats away at him. At the same time, much of what he does is for himself, and his caring words often seem hollow when examined more closely. Marlene Dixon, Sarah's mother and the lawyer claiming to seek clemency for Noa, may have the most guilt and also be the most in denial of her own role. Her numerous attempts to arrange her daughter's life like moving pieces on a chessboard repeatedly failed, and each more dramatic step was essential to her daughter's inevitable end. If each of these characters confronted their wrongs instead of trying to hide them, all of the heartbreak and destruction could have been avoided.
If you would let guilt kill you, read The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.
Silver, Elizabeth L.. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: A Novel. Crown Publishing Group, 2013. Kindle Edition.