On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

A sophisticated first novel introduces readers to death row

Share story

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
The cover of Elizabeth Silver's "The Execution of Noa P. Singleton."
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Elizabeth L. Silver's debut novel introduces readers to Noa P. Singleton, a woman on death row for murder. The mother of her victim, a lawyer, helped put her there — but now she's had a change of heart. 

The older woman will help Noa avoid execution, she says, if Noa will explain what led her to commit the murder.

Silver is well prepared to write legal thrillers, having one degree in creative writing and another in law. As a law student, she worked on the clemency appeal of a death row inmate in Texas. She says her writing is informed in part by what she learned in her law-student days.

In naming "The Execution of Noa P. Singleton" as her book pick this week, Kerri Miller said the novel was surprisingly sophisticated for a first-time author.  "The point of view in this novel, and the way it moves back and forth with chronology, is just so unique," she said. "I've never read anything like this," Kerri said. "I usually don't like novels that are set in prisons, I don't know why. But to set a novel on death row — that is unusual. And yet this story really holds together." 

LEARN MORE ABOUT ELIZABETH L. SILVER:

• Are there any skills you learned from your legal career that you've found particularly useful when writing?
I think my legal career was both a blessing and a curse to my writing. Many of my writing friends questioned my decision to go to law school, worrying that it would occupy too much real estate in the day and also destroy my creative voice. On the one hand, it did take me away from longer writing days and retrained a portion of my writing style in complete antithesis of what I'd spent so many years developing. On the other hand, I spent three years learning the law, and from a purely academic perspective, was seduced by the rich narrative of the system. It gave me the story and the research for this novel, for which I'm forever grateful, and a new outlook on persuasive storytelling that I'm not sure I would have gained on my own. (Elizabeth L. Silver, interviewed on Foyles.co.uk)

•  Review: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
Trained as a lawyer, Silver has written a darkly witty, acerbic jigsaw puzzle of a first novel about legal versus moral culpability. (Kirkus Reviews)