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The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 11, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

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

From Booklist

In this vividly written debut novel, Silver, a lawyer, brings her background to bear on the story of a woman who is 10 years into her stay on death row. Six months before her scheduled execution date, Noa P. Singleton, who was sentenced to death for the murder of her father’s pregnant girlfriend, Sarah Dixon, is visited by the victim’s mother, Marlene, a high-powered attorney. Marlene has reversed her opinion on the death penalty and is seeking to file a petition of clemency on Noa’s behalf, but Noa is highly skeptical of Marlene’s motives. In the cleverly constructed narrative, which alternates between Noa’s diary and the self-serving letters Marlene pens to her dead daughter, the circumstances of the crime begin to emerge. And though by novel’s end, the characters prove unlikable and their motives murky, 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. --Joanne Wilkinson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038534743X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385347433
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (324 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth L Silver is the author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, which was an Amazon Best Book of the Year, the Amazon Best Debut of the Month, a Kirkus Best Book of the Summer, Kansas City Star Best Book of the Year, Oprah "Ten Books to Pick up Now," and selection for the Target Emerging Author Series. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton has been optioned for film by ImageMovers Production Company (Robert Zemeckis) and will be translated into Polish, French, Japanese, Russian, Thai and Korean.

Elizabeth's writing has appeared in McSweeney's, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Review, The Millions, and others. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the MA program in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in England, and Temple University Beasley School of Law, Elizabeth has taught English as a Second Language in Costa Rica, writing and literature at Drexel University and St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, and worked as an attorney in California and Texas, where she was a judicial clerk for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Born and raised in New Orleans and Dallas, she currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

300 of 323 people found the following review helpful By DS from LA on July 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Now, does that title make any sense whatsoever? Or does it seem like a series of words randomly strung together? (Hint: it's the latter.) Welcome to the world of first-time author Elizabeth L. Silver, who it seems never met a simile she didn't like.

Although this novel has an intriguing premise and was listed among Amazon's "Best Books of the Month" (a testament more to the skill of Ms. Silver's publicist than to the taste of Amazon's editors), it is unfortunately an abject failure. Apart from the wholly unsatisfying nature of the rather ridiculous final "reveal" of the crime, the writing is painfully overblown, consisting of page after page strewn with awkward and often nonsensical similes. A few examples:

"Marlene twisted her neck like the top of a soda bottle opening." (Sounds like Marlene will be needing a chiropractor.)

"It's isolating, like a termite scuffling up your innards." (Huh?)

"The pearl of blood dripped onto the white duvet like a spot of chocolate." (Yum.)

"A pale rough armor covered his mouth like scales from a striated fish." (Try as I might, I just can't make a sensible mental picture of this.)

"A smirk seeped out between my lips like an unsuspecting belch." (I've never seen a smirk between someone's lips, nor do I have any idea what a belch might suspect or not suspect.)

"Thirteen individuals, marinating in the enclosed jury box like a carton of dried-out fruit." (Um, if it's marinating, it's not dried out.)

"His heart was too visible outside his garments, where it resided like lint on a week-old sweater." (Is there a different kind of lint on a two-week-old sweater?
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93 of 97 people found the following review helpful By arabella on July 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is so bad that it's astonishing that it was published, even these days. The author apparently has an MA in creative writing from England, which is also astonishing and very depressing. She uses hundreds and hundreds of awkward, clumsy similes until the reader wants to scream. The sun's "talons" point "like a strict schoolteacher;" clouds commune "like a collection of cotton balls in a tightly sealed ziplock bag" or have been "flattened out like a stack of pancakes" or have "been vaccinated with a syringe of rainy dye;" a convict dies "like the sizzling flicker of a fading lightbulb;" sneakers on a telephone wire "swayed over me like poisonous mistletoe;" a security camera "closed in on me like a furtive spectator;" a door closed "as if a director had slapped a clapboard;" her father has "a water bottle on his side like a colostomy bag," etc., etc., etc. Many of her images are ugly and/or inappropriate, and she doesn't even seem to know the meaning of many verbs and adjectives. Do publishing houses not employ editors any more? Silver's characters have no personality or emotions; she's just using them to push her plot, such as it is, laboriously forward. What a waste of ink, paper and time this book is.
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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Karen A on July 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I expected to like this book, but couldn't get past the first few pages. The writing is horrifying, to the point where it's difficult to decipher the author's intention. The metaphors and similes are BAD. Word usage and even grammar are BAD. Other reviewers have provided many good examples.

Shame on Crown Publishers for letting this book out of the building and shame on Amazon for naming it the best book of the month.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Elizabeth L. Silver's THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON has a great premise - thirty-five-year-old Noa is on death row for murder, with her execution date just six months away, when Marlene Dixon, the mother of her victim, shows up with a proposal. Marlene will use her influence to convince the State to commute Noa's sentence to life in prison in exchange for information on her daughter's murder. Why did Noa kill Sarah? What exactly happened on New Year's Day, 2003? Noa has never told her story - not to the press, not to her attorneys, and not in court. Noa can save her own life by revealing the truth behind Sarah's death. What should she do?

Great premise, yes, but the novel slogs along in its overwritten prose, dragging the reader through Noa's self-indulgent musings and her meandering metaphors, until the actual details of the plot (what happened the day Sarah died?) don't really matter. Silver's novel pretends to be "literature," rather than a Grisham-style legal thriller. She uses lots of big, pretentious words, shovels-full of metaphors, and convoluted sentences that require careful unraveling to make sense (and they don't always make sense, even with that effort). Noa, who narrates the novel, is clearly an educated woman, with a fine grasp of language, although it's often distracting wading through her clever verbiage and layered parentheticals. It's also odd that in spite of her knowledge of grammar and syntax, Noa has no idea how to use the word "cliché" - she makes the high-school mistake of using the noun as an adjective (i.e. "it was `cheesy, cliché, nauseating'").

If boiled down to its essence, Noa's story is both intriguing and compelling.
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