Alexander Maksik's "A Marker to Measure Drift" is a fascinating, engrossing look into the life of a Liberian refugee, Jacqueline.
After a traumatic event in her home country, Jacqueline finds herself wandering throughout Europe. She eventually finds herself in Greece, where she is homeless and hungry. However, her focus on survival helps her to appreciate the minutiae of life. Once she finds a cave for shelter, builds a mattress out of trash, and starts earning money by giving massages to tourists, memories from her past life start flooding back, threatening to overwhelm her. Overall, this was an excellent book. Jacqueline is realistic and likeable character who make us care about her. We feel her hungry and desperation as she looks for a way to survive in Greece. We also feel her longing for companionship. Many times, people want to get closer to her and get to know her more, but she usually self-sabotages and makes an excuse to distance herself from them. The reason? The more "normal" she becomes, the more she remembers and thinks about the traumatic events that took her family away from her. The first 60 or so pages were excellent. The descriptions of Greece, Jacqueline's thoughts, her memories of her family, and the people around her were wonderfully written. However, the "pattern" (of Jacqueline looking for food, people to give massages to, and sort of befriending people before disappearing) started becoming repetitive in the middle of the book. I think Maksik should've made the middle shorter since I didn't see the point of some of the stuff there. As for the ending, it was somewhat predictable but powerful. Jacqueline finally opens up to a friendly waitress and she finally told her (and the audience) her entire story. Her parents and sister had been brutally killed before her eyes during the Liberian civil war. It could've been more powerful, though, if the novel was shorter overall and there were fewer hints about what had happened to her family. Also, some people prefer open endings, but I personally didn't really like it. After telling the story to the waitress, the book ends on a note where Jacqueline walks back to her mattress made of trash and decides whether she wants to stay in the Greek tourist town or go to another place. I wish she was taken in by the waitress. Overall, a good read. I would've given it five stars if it were more streamlined and less repetitive.