Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton (Audiobook)

Summary: A beguiling debut novel about the stories we tell ourselves to survive, the scars that never fade, and the things we choose to call the truth. 

Noa P. Singleton speaks not a word in her own defense throughout a brief trial that ends with a jury finding her guilty of first-degree murder. Ten years later, a woman who will never know middle age, she sits on death row in a maximum security penitentiary, just six months away from her execution date. 

Seemingly out of the blue, she is visited by Marlene Dixon, a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the heartbroken mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing. She tells Noa that she has changed her mind about the death penalty and Noa’s sentence, and will do everything in her considerable power to convince the governor to commute the sentence to life in prison - if Noa will finally reveal what led her to commit her crime. 

Noa and Marlene become inextricably linked through the law, shared sentiments of guilt, and irreversible mistakes in an unapologetic tale of love, anguish, and deception that is as unpredictable as it is magnificently original. -- Random House Audio

When I was given two credits from to test their service, I selected Rod Stewart's autobiography (which I loved) and THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON by Elizabeth L. Silver. I had seen some positive reviews for this novel and thought the premise sounded fantastic. It was only after I downloaded the book that I began to see some negative reviews too. Sadly, after listening to the entire story, I think I'm in the camp of people who didn't appreciate this novel.

THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON tells the story of Noa, a woman living on death row because she was found guilty of killing a pregnant woman. She only has sixth months until her execution date and has pretty much given up on the idea that her sentence will be changed. One day, the victim's mother Marlene arrives and tells Noa that she has had a change of heart about the death penalty; and she'll go to the judge in her favor if Noa will just tell her why she committed the crime. Through a series of flashbacks, Noa eventually reveals her story and what really happened on the day of the murder.

I have been dreading preparing this post because I really don't like to write negative reviews. However, THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON definitely wasn't a pleasurable read for me. I almost abandoned it a number of times, but I kept waiting for it to get better. Unfortunately, it didn't. I don't want to harp on all of the things that didn't sit right with me, but I admit that I had some major issues with the characters, the story and the writing.

While I didn't hate the storyline, I didn't love it either. It was almost as if I didn't care what happened to Noa or why. I think a major reason for that was that I just didn't like Noa or Marlene, and I didn't feel as if I had enough information about either one of them to fully understand them. I am the first to say that you don't have to like the characters for a book to be good, but in the case of this novel, I need to care about them (even in a negative way) to feel vested in the story. That didn't happen.

However, my biggest issue with this story was the author's writing style. Ms. Silver wrote in a "flowery" way with so many descriptions. I honestly can't remember the last book I read with this many similes and metaphors. That's just not my type of writing and I will tell you that I had a hard time not rolling my eyes (or gagging) for some of them. I kind of wish I had physically read this book so I could have included some of them in my post. Just in case you don't believe me, check out Rhapsody in Books' review so you can see some examples.

And while the book did address some important issues about crime, guilt, our justice system and the death penalty, I really didn't find myself pondering these things like the author might have intended. I guess I might say that THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON could be a good book club pick because there are definitely a few things to discuss. My problem is that I'd have a hard time getting past the writing and discussing the major themes of the novel.

THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON was read by Rebecca Lowman and Amanda Carlin. One read Noa's chapters in her voice and the other read Marlene's letters to her daughter. I am going to try to separate my issues with the book from their performances because it's not really fair otherwise. So... I think they both did a fine job with the narration and their voices were appropriate for the characters. However, I honestly had so many issues with the story that I wasn't able to truly appreciate either of their performances.

Unfortunately, THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON didn't work for me. However, I have seen quite a few positive reviews for this novel, so it might be a book that's worth checking out.
Thanks to for providing a review copy of this audiobook.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Well, as you know, I felt the same way!

Beth F said...

Bummer. Glad I never started this one.

bermudaonion said...

Oh, that writing style wouldn't work for me either. It's too bad because I think the storyline is interesting.

Sandy Nawrot said...

After reading Jill's review and this one, I would not touch this book with a ten foot pole. Some of those quotes that Jill included in her review just made me shake my head...I had NO IDEA what she was trying to say, there were so many big words and crazy metaphors.

Kim@Time2Read said...

Thanks for the honest review! I've been planning to read this one, though I wasn't sure about it. But I think I'd find that writing style off-putting, also. I may give it a try anyway, but with much lowered expectations!

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

this one just does not sound appealing to me and then to top it off with flowery writing style? i'd be throwing the book across the room...definitely a credit to you for finishing the novel!

Kat R said...

I have this on my TBR - not sure if I will like the flowery writing, maybe won't read it as soon now! Thanks for your review!