Monday, July 8, 2013

"The Execution of Noa P. Singleton"

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.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, her first novel, and reported the following:
I love this idea of a page test. Here is page 69 from The Execution of Noa P. Singleton:
“I’ve changed my life, Noa. I’m a different person now, and I want you to be a part of it.”

The door to the bar opened and closed, losing a handful of patrons. He looked over, a bit melancholic, as if losing them were somehow as painful as losing me.

“Do you know the owner?” I asked. “We’re practically the only ones here. Did you plan it that way?”

He grinned with undulating pride. “You’re looking at him. And of course not.”


Nothing else came out, despite his necessitous expectations. Nothing else was planned. He was the one who called this little meeting. My life’s goal up until that point was far from tracking down a missing parent. It’s not like I walked around blaming the world for my problems merely because a one-night stand with my mother twenty-three years earlier resulted in my sitting at this wooden booth in North Philadelphia across from a man with a water bottle on his side like a colostomy bag, clearly on his Twelfth Step toward making sure that water bottler remained a water bottle. Still, he needed some sort of recognition for his evolution. That ridiculous scar over this hip was starting to dance into a pitiful expression of desperation and didn’t seem to stop no matter how many expression of acknowledged understanding I tossed his way.

“Well done, then, Caleb,” I said. “Is that the proper response? You turned your life around…then what? You called me? Congratulations. You did it. You’re, what, a businessmen now or just an alcoholic who owns a bar? Because that’s an effective strategy for reform.”

His brows swam together, constructing a moat of protective lines. Sarcasm clearly hadn’t made its way down the evolutionary track just yet in Dive Bar, Bar Dive. I wanted to say I was sorry, but I wasn’t.

“I just want to know you,” he said. “That’s why I called. That’s all. I want to know my daughter. I made a lot of mistakes, and now I want to fix them. It’s not a unique story. It’s just mine.”
I’m not sure if this page is entirely representative of the book, particularly as the novel is divided into multiple voices and times. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is about a young woman on death row in Pennsylvania and her relationship with her victim’s mother, an attorney, who initiates a clemency petition on Noa’s behalf six months before her execution date in order to commute Noa’s death sentence to a life sentence.

The novel is told primarily from the perspective of Noa Singleton, the young woman on death row in Pennsylvania, in present day prison observations, reflections, and conversations with her lawyers, as well as via flashbacks to her past, exploring her path to prison. This is a scene in a bar in which Noa is attempting to reconcile with her estranged father. It is a significant relationship, but the style isn’t indicative of the entire book and is quite dialogue heavy.

The novel is broken down into six parts, representing the six months before Noa’s execution, or “X-day,” as she calls it. Interspersed between each of the sections is a letter from Marlene Dixon to her dead daughter, Noa’s victim, in which she reconciles her evolving views on the death penalty and comes to terms with her daughter’s death.

Page 69, although not indicative of the novel in full, may be representative of the flashback scenes to Noa’s life, in which we, as readers, begin to piece together the puzzle of what happened on January 1, 2003, the day that placed her behind bars.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth L. Silver's website.

--Marshal Zeringue