2014 fiction finalist

Alexander Maksik | A Marker to Measure Drift

Alexander Maksik

About the author
Alexander Maksik is the author of the novels You Deserve Nothing and A Marker to Measure Drift. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Nonrequired ReadingHarper’sTin HouseHarvard ReviewThe New York Times MagazineThe AtlanticCondé Nast Traveler, Salon and Narrative, among other publications, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the recipient of fellowships from the Truman Capote Literary Trust and The Corporation of Yaddo. He lives in New York City.

About the book
In the aftermath of Charles Taylor’s fallen regime, a young Liberian woman named Jacqueline has fled to the Aegean island of Santorini. She lives in a cave accessible only at low tide. During the day, she offers massages to tourists, battling her hunger one or two euros at a time. Her pressing physical needs provide a deeper relief, obliterating her memories of unspeakable violence. But slowly, the specters of her former life resurface: her adoring younger sister; her unshakably proper mother; her father, who believed in his president; her journalist lover, who knew that Taylor would be overthrown. Now Jacqueline must face the ghosts that haunt her—or tip into full-blown madness. Hypnotic in its depiction of physical and spiritual hungers, A Marker to Measure Drift is a novel about ruin, faith, and the devastating memories can destroy and redeem us.

Critics / Reviews
“Immensely powerful. . . . Beautifully written. . . . Jacqueline is a mesmerizing heroine.”  — The Boston Globe

“Haunting and sensual, Maksik’s prose deftly intertwines the tenderness and torment of memory with the hard reality of searching for sustenance and shelter.”  — Harper’s

“Beautiful. . . . It will leave you breathless and speechless; it will send you reeling.”  — San Francisco Chronicle

“No novel I read this year affected me more powerfully than Alexander Maksik’s A Marker to Measure Drift.”  — Richard Russo

“Maksik’s lean, affecting prose burns . . . stripped of any excess, entirely attuned to the prospect of survival, beautifying the simple things that sustain life.”  — The Atlantic

“Beautiful. . . . Compelling and visceral. . . . One rushes until the fever breaks, dazed and haunted by its power.”  — Chicago Tribune (Editor’s Choice)

“A bold book, and an instructive one. . . . [Maksik] has illuminated for us, with force and art, an all too common species of suffering.”  — Norman Rush, The New York Times Book Review

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