Synopses & Reviews
A hypnotic, spellbinding novel set in Greece and Africa, where a young Liberian woman reckons with a haunted past.
On a remote island in the Aegean, Jacqueline is living alone in a cave accessible only at low tide. With nothing to protect her from the elements, and with the fabric between herself and the world around her increasingly frayed, she is permeated by sensory experiences of remarkable intensity: the need for shade in the relentless heat of the sun-baked island; hunger and the occasional bliss of release from it; the exquisite pleasure of diving into the sea. The pressing physical realities of the moment provide a deeper relief: the euphoric obliteration of memory and, with it, the unspeakable violence she has seen and from which she has miraculously escaped.
Slowly, irrepressibly, images from a life before this violence begin to resurface: the view across lush gardens to a different sea; a gold Rolex glinting on her father’s wrist; a glass of gin in her mother’s best crystal; an adoring younger sister; a family, in the moment before their fortunes were irrevocably changed. Jacqueline must find the strength to contend with what she has survived or tip forward into full-blown madness.
Visceral and gripping, extraordinary in its depiction of physical and spiritual hungers, Alexander Maksik’s A Marker to Measure Drift is a novel about ruin and faith, barbarism and love, and the devastating memories that contain the power both to destroy us and to redeem us.
“Gorgeously written, tightly wound, with language as precise as cut glass, Alexander Maksik’s A Marker to Measure Drift is a tour de force. Maksik renders the soul of his heroine, a Liberian refugee, with stark honesty so that we understand both the brutality of what she has run from and the terror she experiences as she tries to build her life back. I was undone by this novel. I challenge anyone to read it and not come away profoundly changed.” Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin and The God of War
“This novel is spellbinding. In its tenderness, grandeur and austerity, it reminds us that there is no country on earth as foreign, as unreachable, as the frantic soul of another human being.” Susanna Sonnenberg
“A Marker to Measure Drift is a haunting, haunted novel. Things get stripped down to essentials — food, water, where to sleep for the night, a state of solitary desperation brought on by the most profound kind of loss. Every line of this excellent novel rings true as Maksik leads us toward the catastrophe at the story’s core. This is one of those books that leaves you staring into space when you finish, dazed from the sheer power of what’s been said.” Ben Fountain
Alexander Maksik's electrifying novel tracks a woman's journey from the horrors of Charles Taylor's Liberia to abject poverty and self-exile on a Greek island, where she must grapple with a haunted past and find a way back into human society.
On an island somewhere in the Aegean, Jacqueline, a young Liberian woman, veers between starvation and satiety, between the brutality of her past and the precarious uncertainty of her present in the aftermath of experiences so unspeakable that she prefers homeless numbness to the psychological confrontation she knows is inevitable. Hypnotic, highly sensual, exquisitely written, and extraordinary in its depiction of both pleasure and pain, of excruciating physical and spiritual hungers, A Marker to Measure Drift is a novel about memory, how we live with what we know, and whether and how we go forward, intact and whole, after the ravages of loss. It is beautiful, lacerating, impossible to put down. A breakthrough work from a prodigiously gifted young writer.
About the Author
Alexander Maksik is the author of the novel You Deserve Nothing
and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
His writing has appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Harper’s, Tin House, Harvard Review, The New York Times Magazine, Salon,
and Narrative Magazine,
among other publications, and has been
translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives in
New York City.