Wednesday, August 6, 2014
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver
3.0 out of 5 stars -- What is truth? What is justice?
Convoluted story by unreliable narrators pulls this novel along, albeit cumbersomely, as it twists in many directions toward a fairly unsatisfying conclusion. Given my intense and immediate lack of empathy for the characters in this book, I found it hard to care too much about Noa's situation and her mixed up tale of lackluster achievement and her missed potential. Her dashed dreams, partially formed hopes, and going nowhere life before her imprisonment was mostly of her own making and the reasons for this are only partially explained and examined in the chapters counting down to her "X" , or execution, day. The other characters in the book are not so well drawn, with only tantalizing glimpses into the psyche of Marlene Dixon -- who, as an attorney and the mother of Sarah, the woman killed by Noa and the reason why Noa is on Death Row -- is a bit more understandable as her grief warps her perspective and sets her on a mission.
The narrative weaves back and forth in time and is repetitive in places and suspicious in others. Is Noa telling the truth about anything that has happened in her past or have the 10 years of solitary imprisonment warped her memories so that they are shrouded in veils that obscure and smooth those things that she might not want to remember accurately. Out of pain, formed by guilt? Noa recounts her childhood in bits and pieces, reflecting on her theatrical and emotionally absent mother, and her abandonment by a father she never knew but had recently reconnected with. How have her experiences shaped the person she is now, marking off her last days. At almost the last hour, Noa is given a spark of hope when Marlene Dixon announces that, in a change of heart, she no longer wants Noa to be executed for killing her daughter and sends a young attorney to Noa to help prepare a case for clemency -- only wanting to know WHY Noa killed Sarah, since Noa never took the stand at her trial or gave a motive. It was all speculation. Circumstantial evidence and questionable testimony. Will Marlene get the answers she needs -- because after all, those reasons won't bring her Sarah back to her. Ultimately, the question of expiation for wrongs committed and hope for the ultimate gift of forgiveness are main themes. But, what are exactly the crime(s) for which Noa bears the sentence? Is she redeemed?
I usually like dramas of this nature, but much of it required too much suspension of disbelief at the coincidental nature of the relationships between the characters and the parts portrayed. Sometimes I liked the writing, at others I found it tedious and ambiguous so that it was meandering all around the truth. I prefer a conclusion that answers my questions, quells my doubts, and allows me to interpret a mystery or get to the heart of the matter. I realize there is a moral argument regarding the death penalty but even more so, there certainly is sometimes difficulty in seeing where execution is equated with justice. I'm not meant here to argue the morality or legality of capital punishment, and readers will come to this with their own positions on the matter. At the end, the only question is -- did Noa deserve her sentence and how did her punishment change anything that had happened? Were the mitigating circumstances worthy of consideration? Even at the conclusion, there are loose ends. That's why this book would work great for a discussion group.
Thank you to Blogging for Books for this free paperback to review.