I was really excited to receive Alexander Maksik’s new novel A Marker to Measure Drift having reviewed and loved his debut novel You Deserve Nothing. I took no time at all in reading it, but have taken for ever to review it as it left me feeling really shaken.
That’s the thing about Maksik’s writing. I don’t know how he does it, but there is something about his words that seems to directly access your emotions and twist them this way and that. Maybe it’s a feature of great writing, but there aren’t many novelists that you can honestly say manage that. The novel follows Jacqueline, a Liberian refugee, as she survives living hand to mouth in an Aegean tourist trap, riddled with survivor’s guilt having escaped a tragedy which is hinted at, but not directly referred to until the end of the novel.
It’s impressive how Maksik sustains the reader’s attention in the interim, gripping them with Jacqueline’s bleak struggle for a survival she doesn’t even seem to want. His intimate narrative confidently, and more importantly, credibly creates the character of a young female refuge which really engages the reader with her plight. The trouble is, in a novel rooted in such gritty, real affairs, there can be no happy ending. When I finished the novel I felt horrified and a little bereft- a reaction to the writing, but not an emotionally easy read.
If you enjoy powerful issues based writing like J.M. Shaw’s Ten Weeks in Africa, I would definitely recommend A Marker to Measure Drift. Maksik is a powerful writer, but you need to make sure that you’re in the right place emotionally before engaging with some of the topics in this book.