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A Marker to Measure Drift

Shortlisted for Le Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2013
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
Finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
A Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice

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, this is a novel about ruin, faith, and the devastating memories can destroy and redeem us.


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

– Richard Russo

“La Mesure de la dérive emporte le lecteur, comme rarement un roman, dans l’intimité d’un être assiégé par la faim. Etonnamment, superbement, Alexander Maksik fait de cette vie errante et obstinée . . . une aventure bouleversante, un drame solaire, écrit avec une efficace et subtile empathie.”

– Le Monde

“Un roman sensible et magnifique . . . On est tout de suite happé par la puissance émotionnelle de ce récit lumineux et tragique, qui par sa sensibilité, évoque les œuvres Albert Camus. . .”

– Paris Match

“I was so caught up in the masterfully taut and suspenseful story of this haunted and desperate young woman that it was only after I’d turned the last page that I was able to stop and consider the truly breathtaking accomplishment of this novel. How did Alexander Maksik immerse himself so convincingly in a world so entirely unlike his own, and in a character so entirely different from himself? It is work of stupendous imagination, like Dave Eggers’ What is the What, or (dare I say?) like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.”

– Ayelet Waldman

‘Maksik hits the mark. His writing is both stark and lyrical, subtly reflecting Jacqueline’s state of mind – wary, desolate, hallucinatory, determined. Maksik’s last ten pages, a masterclass in how to captivate and revolt a reader, may well be the most powerful I will read all year’

– Malcom Forbes, Literary Review

“Maksik has produced a bold book, and an instructive one . . .[he] has illuminated for us with force and art an all too common species of suffering – grievous, ugly and, unfortunately, a perennial.”

– Norman Rush, The New York Times Book Review

“A fever dream of a novel . . . One might linger over most of this book, rereading particularly beautiful passages. Yet the ending is so compelling and visceral that one rushes until the fever breaks, dazed and haunted by its power.”

– Chicago Tribune, Editor’s Choice

“Poetic, often mesmerizing . . . faultlessly lyrical . . . A Marker to Measure Drift is about compassion; perhaps it’s even a masterclass in compassion . . . Maksik does not take sides or make judgments. He is simply aware that his job as a novelist is to talk to us about something that we ought to know . . . And to move us deeply in the process.

– The Sydney Morning Herald

“Maksik emerges with something stark and essential. . . No doubt he still faces obstacles in his work, missteps and uncertainty from day to day. A book in print doesn’t cure all ills. With A Marker to Measure Drift, though, Alexander Maksik’s deep belief proves warranted: he has succeeded.”

– The Millions

“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.”

– The San Francisco Chronicle

“Immensely powerful . . . Beautifully written . . . Jacqueline is a mesmerizing heroine . . . She is alive on the page from the outset, and with each paragraph she deepens, grows more complicated. Clearer and yet more mysterious . . . Maksik brings Jacqueline’s tale to a devastating finale . . . giving her quest an awful and moving dignity.”

– The Boston Globe

“Luminous . . . Maksik is both deft and lyrical, a master of tense—his shifts from past to present and back again are nearly invisible, so appropriate do they feel—and a sensualist, and it is impossible to read Marker with less than total attention . . . Maksik’s brilliance is evident in his ability to keep the novel’s stripped-down cast and plot so riveting.”

– Winnipeg Free Press

“Moving, painful and beautiful. It will change you.

– Booklist

“A masterpiece . . . Maksik manages to accomplish in Marker something next to no one has managed to do, namely, to strip the world down to naked life, life in all its glory and all its agony and terror, and death . . . Maksik’s prose floats weightlessly and then falls like a fist on the table.”

– The Buenos Aires Review

“A moving, deeply felt and lyrical novel.”

– Kirkus (Starred 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, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

“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

A Marker to Measure Drift 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, author of Her Last Death and She Matters

“A mesmerising novel about a woman pushed to the limits of human experience. Maksik combines James Salter’s gift for seductive sentences with a real mastery of character and story. A beautiful, tender piece of literature which just happens to be a page-turner too.”

– Jonathan Lee, author of High Dive


Canada – Bond Street

UK – John Murray

Norway – Font

Netherlands - De Bezige Bij

Sweden - Brombergs

Italy - Mondadori

Poland - Swiat Ksiazki

Spain - Roca Editorial

Germany - Dromer-Knaur

France - Belfond

France - 10/18