Miss Portland by David EbenbachAugust 5, 2017
I was in residence at the VCCA, walking to my studio when I noticed a man, carrying a box from his car and obviously moving into a vacant studio near mine. “Hi,” I said. “I’m Sandell. Are you just arriving.”
“David,” he said.
And yes he was just arriving. And no, he’d never been here before. So I extended my hand, and I said, “Welcome.”
We didn’t see much of each other after that, an occasional shared dinner in the dining room, a few meetings on the paths, but that welcome cemented, if not a friendship, then a warmth that continued long after each of us had returned to our separate lives. And now, David has published Miss Portland, a wonderful novel that tells the story of Zoe Tussler, a young woman with bipolar disorder who goes off her medication and moves from a stable job in Philadelphia to be with Gordy, her mindfulness teacher in Portland, Maine. Zoe has tried quest after quest, cult after cult, and each has failed her. As she travels to Maine, she understands Gordy cannot provide answers for how she will live her life. Only she can do that. Maine has a special pull for Zoe. She remembers an A frame house and a beach where she vacationed one summer with her family, a place of peace and of calm, an idyllic moment when her life felt whole.
David Ebenbach has created an intimate portrait of a sensitive young woman who wants to root and find connection. In her vulnerably and with her struggles with bipolar, Zoe is both unique and just like each of us as we search for a path through the tangle of brush and weeds that makes up our lives. Miss Portland is a beautifully wrought story that resonates long after its final words.
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