A Marker to Measure Drift

Alexander Maksik

Published by John Murray in the UK, August 2013

Alfred Knopf in the US, July 2013

240pp, hardcover, £17.99

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner


This devastating poem of a novel is the story of a Liberian refugee, Jacqueline, subsisting, often starving, bizarrely – and with consummate irony – on the Greek island/holiday paradise of Santorini. Half sustained, half crazed by her memories of the hellish bloodshed visited on her family and her country, Jacqueline is lost, alone, too frightened to kill herself. She is the essence of survival, with only the voices of the dead, notably her mother, and her own inextinguishable life force to keep her going.

Named a New York Times notable book of 2013, Maksik’s second novel is short, limpid, scorching. It offers no happy endings for Jacqueline, the twenty-three-year-old black woman who, though resourceful and intelligent, is perpetually drowning in loneliness and horror. She will not escape from the pictures inside her own head.

Instead, this contemporary story of suffering and statelessness, infused with cool but comprehensive humanity, insists on the importance of continuity. Maksik draws a plausible female, foreign character, eschewing easy liberation through her final expression of events but possibly sustained thereby in her journey forwards.

This is fine, sensitive work which fully invades the reader’s consciousness. An outstanding novel.

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