I’ve always wondered what it takes to become a death row inmate. Every week growing up, my family attended a church that was quite liberal in its beliefs (especially for being Catholic). And every week when it came to praying especially for those around the world, we always prayed for a man named “Jeff Meyer and those who live with him on North Carolina’s death row.” I never knew what Jeff Meyer did, or where he was holed up, but I prayed for this name regardless. I suppose that’s a prime example of blind faith. A few weeks ago, we stopped praying for Jeff Meyer. His name just didn’t come up amongst the war heroes, people who passed away, or those hooked to a hospital bed, lying amid wires. I haven’t been able to dig up anything on the google machine about Jeff Meyer’s death, but I know that I’ve heard this name repeated every Sunday over my upbringing.
I guess this all brings me to the major point: I chose The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver on Netgalley because 1. I watch far too many episodes of Law & Order and 2. I’ve been praying for a death row inmate for my entire teenage life and now well-into my adult life. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a really strange book. It tells the story of Ms. Singleton through the last months of her death row sentence and the story of how she became an inmate. It’s a FRUSTRATING read. She’s frustrating, her father is infuriating, his father’s girlfriend is a flaky waif who’s trying to find herself through semi-artistic means. Don’t even get me started on Marlene, the mother of the victim. That sounds really bad when you read the previous sentence, but the story of Noa’s crime involves Marlene deeply. It’s a book full of disgusting characters. It’s an episode of Criminal Minds in that the three main female characters are “normal” women. They can be categorized differently: strong, bag o’ chips, damaged, but they’re all women who are succeeding in a society that has told each of them a different set of morals.
If you want a character-driven read, this is definitely it. If you’re a psychology minor who thinks you can analyze people upon first meeting, read this. If you’re an investigative spirit, or you’re the guy/gal who ruins movies for everyone you’re with because you tell the ending, then read this. By the way, I’m one of you so I don’t judge. We’re the puzzle solvers of the world without having to take a calculus class.
The beginning part of this book was slow when Noa wasn’t opening up to the European, peachy-keen, boy-man of a lawyer. He hadn’t yet cracked the porcelain of her story and was just tapping the glass of the prison window waiting for a response. We were all in Noa’s head when she over-analyzed Marlene’s attempt at getting her clemency. I think most of you know how it is to be too much in a character’s head and not enough in the environment. The only book that has been successful with this for the entirety of a novel is Catcher in the Rye. Somehow you want to be in Holden’s head. I found him to be the polar opposite to Atticus Finch, but equally salty. Noa is just a caged bird of a woman. However, this is also the place where the author keeps her the most real. I had to remind myself several times while reading that this woman has already served on death row for 10 years. No wonder she’s such a black hole. Who would want to be in the head of a murderer that’s lived in a body sized square for a third of her life. Not this girl, that’s who.
I found this book incredibly interesting, but maddening. These people are so sick and so twisted and so able to add calm to a situation that is nothing but. I detest Marlene Dixon, she tormented me the most throughout the book. I loathed her more than the killer. She kept writing these letters to her daughter, Sarah, to make herself look and feel better. Side story: my entire life I’ve been conscious of my maternal grandparents watching me. It’s just my sixth sense or something. I’ve never seen them, but boy will I ball within the second that one specific Dolly Parton song comes on. I don’t even have to hear the words, I will be crying by the time Dolly opens her wide mouth. A lot of the mistakes I could have made in high school were stopped because of this notion. I thought, “but Grandpa S will see this and I will no longer be his favorite.” I also believe I’m the favorite of the grandfather I’ve never met, but that’s just me being selfish. If I did completely unlawful things in the hopes I could “save” my only daughter, when in reality I was breaking her twig wings, I definitely would not write her letters that make me look like an angel who was just trying to help. That’s just my belief as a human being though. The dead know. They know our secrets and they know the unsaid, the undone, the truth of what happened during their lifetime.
Admitting is the first step, I know I’ve taken a weird and creepy turn on this one.
I just can’t ever, EVER like a character who can’t even make amends after death. Can’t even be honest when the person you have left alone is finally free of your broken promises. In fact, I’m angry. I’m angry with Elizabeth L. Silver for writing a book when all of the characters are villains and I’m desperately trying to find the redeemable piece. I don’t know how to write a complete villain, I don’t think anyone knows how to write a complete villain, but Silver may be the closest that’s ever come. How do we become derailed? What is the difference between mistake and undone?
***GIVEAWAY WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED IN THE NEXT BLOG. SORRY EVERYONE, I WAS ON VACATION. CHECK BACK TO THE LAST BLOG IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.***