A Marker to Measure Drift, by Alexander Maksik
There are some books you can pick up and put down at leisure, but A Marker to Measure Drift is not one of them. From the moment you encounter Jacqueline, the novel’s enigmatic protagonist, destitute and wandering the streets of a tourist town on an island in the Aegean Sea, you want desperately to know how she got there. But Alexander Maksik masterfully unveils Jacqueline’s story only through momentary flashes of memory, which are as fleeting and unsettling as the fragments of a dream. For most of the novel, there are few clues as to how this elegant, well-educated young woman came to be alone and hungry, scavenging for scraps of food left behind by tourists on the beach. Lured by the deceptively simple elegance of the prose, the reader joins Jacqueline on her quest for understanding, as hungry for insight as she is for food and solace — and just as thankful for the brief moments of reprieve she finds in the kindness of a stranger. A consistent thread throughout the novel is the otherworldly presence of Jacqueline’s mother, whose voice resonates in Jacqueline’s mind, alternately chiding or consoling her as she struggles to distinguish between memory and madness and free herself “of the ferocious dark, of the weight and panic.” With each page there is a building sense of dread as Jacqueline teeters on the edge of insanity, struggling to grasp the truth behind the horror that befell her, her family and her country. This is a mesmerizing tale of courage and survival that simultaneously shatters and restores hope for humanity. —Sydney Loney
A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik, $25. Available at Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca.