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A Marker to Measure Drift

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,325 Ratings  ·  248 Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book

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,
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Knopf
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Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Jacqueline is in flight. As part of the Liberian upper class, she has been forced to flee her country as its dictatorship collapsed into smoke and bone, violence and anarchy. She's washed up on the shore of a touristed Aegean island with no money, no shelter, no plan, and no one to call for assistance. You might think these would be her most immediate concerns, but they are not. Jacqueline's external straits pale in comparison to her dire internal landscape. Her body is not all that's taken flig ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was compelled by Maksik's debut novel, YOU DESERVE NOTHING, and eagerly anticipated more from this author. In this, Maksik's second novel, I was bewitched once again by his delicate prose--his ability to spin words, connecting them like fine silver filaments, into whirls of poetic images. I like to linger on Maksik's beautiful passages, such as:

"There were the patchwork farms and vineyards sloping gently to the white frothing coastline. There was the church, pink as bloodied water, and beyond
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This astonishingly good story by Maksik tests our empathy levels. We live beside a homeless woman on a Greek volcanic island in the Mediterranean. Jacqueline her name is, named after Kennedy’s wife. It is hope, I think, that makes her parents name her this, for how can they know what she will become, how she will look, how she will act?

But Jacqueline lives up to the dignity of her name, living as she does in an ocean cave, or in parks under old cypress trees, or in abandoned buildings overlookin
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Right in the very heart of human civilization – Greece – Alexander Maksik places his main character, a woman who has been reduced to the most animalistic instincts for survival.

Named Jacqueline – ironically after the American first lady – she is a victim of PTSD, having witnessed a yet-to-be-revealed catastrophic event that left her the sole survivor of her family. Originally from Liberia, Jacqueline’s father’s fate was twinned with the warlord Charles Taylor as the country dissolved into chaos.
Superstition Review
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Marker to Measure Drift, a novel by Alexander Maksik, engulfs you in an intimate experience. You delve deep into Jacqueline’s world. Maksik does an outstanding job of placing you in her shoes. You feel her hunger, loneliness, homelessness, discomfort, and restlessness against the backdrop of the beautiful tourist island of Santorini.
As the story progresses, you are exposed to Jacqueline’s other world, a world of memories, an escape from her present reality. Maksik shifts seamlessly from one to
Matt Daly
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
***Book was won in a goodreads first read giveaway***

First off, this was a very ambitious novel. The novel follows a young girl whose connection to reality becomes more and more obscured as you read on. At first, memories of her previous life are slowly filtered in as she struggles to survive on an Aegean island with nothing. As the book progresses, these memories become more and more encompassing as the protagonist tries to keep them subdued and continue on with her life. What we are left with,
Bonnie Brody
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Alexander Maksik has written a marvel of a book, one that radiates its pain and horror after you have finished it. ‘A Marker to Measure Drift’ left me breathless and tearful, caring deeply for Jacqueline, the book’s protagonist. It took me a while to really get into it but once I did, I felt like a prisoner to Jacqueline’s anguish and stayed up until three a.m. in order to finish it.

Jacqueline is a Liberian woman, an expat, a political refugee, who is wandering the Greek Isles, currently on Sant
Travis Fortney
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
My Review from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, which you can find here:


In the acknowledgments section of Alexander Maksik's unsettling, stripped-down new novel A Marker to Measure Drift, the first people the author thanks are the makers of two films Liberia: An Uncivil War and Pray the Devil Back to Hell. I haven't seen either movie, but it says something about Mr. Maksik's novel that I read the acknowledgments section after finishing the book, which I
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Deserves way more than the 289 GR ratings it currently has!!

Jacqueline is a Liberian war refugee suffering from PTSD attempting to survive on a Greek vacation destination island, a country not her own. She knows noone. She lives the invisibility of homelessness, the desperation of hunger. But her constant struggle is with her mind, its voices, its thoughts, its memories. It is impossible for her to stop it, to control it, to return to a self she once knew.....before her trauma. Because her fathe
Writer's Relief
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A starkly written, haunting story, A Marker To Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik will have you completely immersed from the first sentence. It tells the deeply affecting story of Jaqueline, a young woman finds herself homeless after the brutal murder of her family during a rebellion in Liberia.
Fleeing to the beaches of Greece, Jaqueline struggles to hold on to her self-respect, integrity, and sanity. She lives day-to-day on found scraps of food, and she offers massages to vacationing beach goe
i loved maksik;s first, You Deserve Nothing and i think telling that his first novel was from Europa Editions while this one here is of knopf. but ntl, this is affecting story of young, educated (her daddy was charles taylor's finance minister) liberian who escapes, too late, to spain, then greece and is living homeless on the beaches. her homelessness and ptsd seemed well sketched, but also the readers knows, KNOWS, the story she will eventually tell, if not to herself, then some some human she ...more
Mark Stevens
Oct 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
"A Marker to Measure Drift" is serene and quiet. The prose is understated and clean. The action is a bit repetitive as we follow Jacqueline, a refugee from Liberia, as she makes her way trying to find sustenance and shelter and civility on a Greek island.

A slow-burning tension pulled me along as Jacqueline's fragile situation seemed like it could shatter completely at any moment. As Jacqueline scores small victories--a real cup of coffee, a job that generates cash--Maksik's writing is so powerf
Rambling Reader
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Robert Wechsler
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-lit
An excellent example of a disciplined third-person, tight POV narration with little dialogue. Maksik is also sufficiently disciplined not to make the protagonist’s past something that is disclosed like a mystery, to create suspense. And although the story proceeds day by day, with lots of details and repetition (and, less successfully, with memories that are close to flashbacks), it is not essentially a naturalistic novel.

Since almost nothing happens, all the pressure is put on the novel’s aesth
Vesna Micic
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I admit hesitating a bit before reading a second novel by an author who had truly won me over with his talent. Truthfully, that was exactly the case with Alexander Maksik’s new novel A Marker to Measure Drift—excitement upon receiving an advance reading copy and then the looming question: will I be enthralled with his new novel the same way I was upon reading You Deserve Nothing? Will I be recommending this book to all my friends with the same passion and belief that this work of fiction is not ...more
Sid Nuncius
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an excellent book. It's a slow, intimate portrait of Jacqueline, a survivor of the dreadful last days of the Charles Taylor regime in Liberia who has fled and ended up, destitute, on the Greek island of Santorini. There is very little action for much of the book's length; the narrative is concerned almost entirely with Jacqueline's inner state, her response to her new circumstances and the scattered, hinted-at memories of her contented, privileged past and the terrible events ...more
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was completely captivated by this book. Jacqueline's desire to eat food, to not focus on the past, and to survive was so engaging, I really could barely put it down. Also, I was reading it while sitting on a beach and all I could think about was how Jacqueline walked on the beach after everyone had left for the day looking for half-empty water bottles. So, on the beach, I noticed half-empty water bottles everywhere.

The story weaves in and out of memory to Jacqueline's present state as homeles
Chad Sayban
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, recommended
Right from the start, I have to say that I really enjoyed Alexander Maksik’s atmospheric character story, A Marker to Measure Drift. Told from the first-person perspective of Jacqueline, Maksik shows a deft touch juggling her physical trials with her unreliable mental state. Maksik’s writing is hypnotic and creates an authentic and unique character in Jacqueline. While the narration allows us to get a feel for what has brought Jacqueline to the edge of madness – and arguable over the edge – it i ...more
John Pappas
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Much of this book feels so much like the sustained tone that hangs in the air long after the ringing of a bell. The moment of articulation is lost but the listener is held rapt, left to swim in the overtones until they fade. Jacqueline, a woman who suffered unimaginable violence at the hands of the anti-Taylor forces in Liberia finds herself living an aesthetic lifestyle on the shores of the Aegean Sea. Living in a cave, and seeing the world through a deprivation-fueled haze, Jacqueline struggle ...more
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book, though the material was so utterly devastating, I have a hard time suggesting that friends read it.

Shelter. Water. And food. Always, food. These are the things that Jacqueline focuses on in order to keep herself from thinking about the horrific situation she has somehow escaped in Charles Taylor's Liberia.

A Marker to Measure Drift puts the reader inside Jacqueline's tortured mind as she fights to keep from tipping head-first into insanity. Homeless and in self-imposed
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
i liked the title so much i pulled it from the library shelf. only a few pages in ..... it has a slow start but that's okay. i'm patient.

if ever there was a literary character that needed a marker to measure drift it would be the narrator of this story. adrift is the perfect word to describe her. almost outside of time and place, she simply exists, alone and completely disconnected ... untethered. the author describes this state of being beautifully, and while he establishes tension in the hints
Jan 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
I keep hearing about how gentle the authors language is.. ime its just slow. He goes into excruciating detail about pedestrians eating lunch and the toenail polish of the people she is massaging on the beach, but almost completely ignores how she ended up there. I hear there is a blow out ending, but why do I have to sift through excruciating detail to pan for little tiny nuggets about the part thats actually a worthwhile story?. I understand the idea of creating interest with these teasers, the ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, reviewed
This novel has left me raw and aching. Jacqueline's story is devastating and heartbreaking and the fragmented way it is revealed is just right for the pace of the novel and the harshness of the final revelations in the last 10 pages or so. The world she has left behind and is haunted by seeps into focus, slowly and then all at once, and this packs a powerful punch. It is full of melancholic feeling and does not have a fairy tale ending, which is extremely sad but just highlights the truthfulness ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Abandoned this book at page 80.

Felt like I was climbing up a craggy, rubble-strewn mountainside. It was painfully obvious that the only reward, when the climb was over, would be a a scene of beyond-belief human cruelty. I chose to reroute.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it
One thing that struck my gut from the start was hunger. All the things we take for granted, a roof over one's head, safety, family, and food- my God to be hungry. More to follow soon...
May 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman
"Mehr Almosen. Was konnte die Frau in ihrem Gesicht sehen, was Jacqueline in der Toilette selbst nicht gesehen hatte? Sie musste es herausfinden, damit sie es verändern konnte. Es sei denn, es war einfach ihre Hautfarbe und ganz und gar nichts Verstecktes, Geheimnisvolles. War schwarz zu sein auf dieser Insel gleichbedeutend damit, ein Flüchtling zu sein?"

Jacqueline ist eine Gestrandete. Heimatlos, sprachlos. Sie ist 23 Jahre alt und aus ihrem afrikanischen Geburtsland geflohen. Nun kämpft sie a
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
This intricate novel tells of a young woman of privilege whose life is forever altered because of her father’s political loyalty to a man unworthy of allegiance. She has born witness to human savagery and has journeyed from Liberia to Greece with only her demons as baggage.

Jacqueline is destitute and alone with her dark memories on the beautiful beaches of Santorini with no clear recollection of how she arrived. She is frightened but wants no one to sense her fear. She is hungry, but too proud
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was really impressed with this book. Not the normal fair for me, a woman flees Liberia and tries to survive as a homeless person in Greece. It's somber, sad, little plot, but still felt very drawn into the story, the voice, her despair and the dangers she faced. The inner dialogue she has with her mother, the self-questioning and awareness, a possible descent into madness is well done. I think anyone who has lived without a secure home, forced to live by their wits, to navigate the hazards of ...more
Phey Hoyman
Aug 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
I read this book based on the positive reviews, but found it to be, for lack of a better word, boring. The entire story could be wrapped up in about 5 pages and most of the book is the author droning on and on in a "poetic way". However, as you read it, the same things happen again, and again, and again.

I can understand why some may enjoy this book, but I personally cannot fully understand how. This book is comprised of 3 ideas, living, remembering, and retelling (best way to word it without say
May 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Alexander Maksik's A Marker to Measure Drift is about a young 24 year old woman named Jacqueline. She's homeless and, in the beginning of the novel, is living in a cave in Greece, accessible at low tides. This novel is realtively simple enough. It follows her day to day as she figures how to survive.

Some days that's dealing with her overwhelming hunger for food or dealing with fragile sanity and descent into madness. Jacqueline is haunted by her memories of her home country, Liberia, and its ci
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What does the title of the novel mean? 2 22 Feb 03, 2014 10:56AM  
A 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, Alexander Maksik is the author of three novels: YOU DESERVE NOTHING, A New York Times and IndieBound bestseller; A MARKER TO MEASURE DRIFT, a New York Times Notable Book of 2013, as well as a finalist for the William Saroyan Prize and Le Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger; and, most recently, SHELTER IN PLACE, named one of the best books of the year by The Guardian and The S ...more
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“Time passes, her mother said, peeling carrots. No matter what you do. No matter what happens, she said, crushing garlic, hammering the side of her favorite knife with her fist. Beauty or horror, my heart. Turning on the stove. Beauty or horror, it passes.” 2 likes
“This was the advantage of desire. Desire focused the mind. It eliminated extraneous thought. The greater the desire, the less the burden of the mind. She would like to live her life this way. Perhaps it was how to survive intact. Live to satisfy her desires. Desire only what she could have.” 1 likes
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