Download a PDF of the Reading Group Guide here.
Please note: In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal important aspects of the plot of this novel—as well as the ending. If you have not finished reading The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, we respectfully suggest that you may want to wait before reviewing this guide.
1. Do you believe in the death penalty? Did your opinion about the death penalty change after reading this novel?
2. How did Noa’s self-professed guilt impact how you felt about her as a character?
3. Do you believe Marlene ever intended to submit the clemency petition? What do you think her motivation was all along, or did it transform as the novel progressed?
4. How does Noa’s view of Marlene change over the course of the novel? Do you think Noa respects, fears, or pities Marlene more than she hates her?
5. Why did Caleb not help Noa at trial? What was so important to him that he wouldn’t risk disclosing Marlene’s involvement? Is he weak and selfish, or simply unable to understand the ramifications of his actions? Does Noa regret her relationship with him?
6. Noa does not help a great deal with her appeals, although she did push forward with a defense at trial. Why do you think Noa decided not to fight for her life once the trial was finished?
7. On page, 79, Noa talks about earning your own failures when she says, “Failure is not something you can impress upon another. It is something earned, something realized with piquant reward.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
8. On page 244, Noa says, “A nation that prides itself on equality treats its victims ever so inequitably in ritual.” She is referring specifically to capital punishment, but what else can this apply to? How does this statement represent America, if at all?
9. There is a noticeable lack of religion in the novel. Was this intentional? Why do you think the author has avoided discussions of religion, which seem to be quite common with death row inmates or individuals close to death?
10. On pages 306–307, Marlene says that “apologies are really just little weeds that grow over monuments and headstones. They keep coming back, but never stop ruining what lies beneath. If an apology is truly authentic, the pain is supposed to stop. Right?” What do you think this means? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?
11. Does Marlene actually feel any remorse or guilt by the end of the novel? If so, is it enough? On page 307, she says, “I am not in the dirt beside you, no matter how much I belong.” Does this change your impression of Marlene?
12. What is the symbolism behind burying Noa’s manuscript at the end of the novel?
13. If you were on death row, what would be the three things you would miss the most? What would be your final words? What would be your last meal?
14. What do you think Marlene will do with the information she learns at the end?
15. All of the characters in The Execution of Noa P. Singleton are imprisoned in some way. With whom did you most sympathize?