Miss Portland, a novel by David Ebenbach

$18.00 $15.00


Miss Portland, a novel by David Ebenbach

Miss Portland

a novel

by David Ebenbach

Winner of the 2016 Orison Fiction Prize, selected by Peter Orner

236 pp.  / paper  /  $18.00
ISBN: 978-0-9964397-1-8
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
1-800-901-3480 / orders@itascabooks.com
Publication Date: June 6, 2017


After years of medicated struggle, 34-year-old Zoe quits her office job and moves into a trailer with her boyfriend in rural Maine against her family’s wishes and her doctor’s advice. After all, she has big plans with Gordy, a goateed vegetarian with thoughtful eyes and a job at a yoga studio and, as it turns out, an unfortunate desire to always be in control. But when a late-night argument turns violent, Zoe runs away in search of a mystical beach house she recalls from childhood, only to discover that in order to find it, she must reckon with her past. In electric prose that burns with wit and intelligence, Miss Portland explores what it means to give up everything in order to recover who you are.


“[Miss Portland is] a moving paean to becoming the place where you belong. Zoe’s life has been a quest for meaning, driven by the manic highs and throttling lows of bipolar disorder. […] The dualities in her situation—moving to Portland to live with her guru but not depending on him for her sense of self, quitting therapy and medication cold turkey but monitoring herself for signs of her bipolar cycle—offer a complex, intimate, and deeply humane portrait of a person whose experience of the world is both alternate and poignantly familiar. […] Ebenbach’s sensitive portrayal resists easy answers or convenient endings. Zoe’s quest for a happy ending may take her to Portland, Maine, but, ultimately, it leads her back to herself.”


“Ebenbach’s writing about mental illness compares favorably to Denis Johnson’s writing about addiction in Jesus’ Son for its ability to vividly convey an experience that many of us don’t understand or have access to. […] If the success of this novel rests on the development of its protagonist, then that success also rests on Ebenbach’s ability to see Zoe in all her dimensions, not simply as a collection of symptoms, an object of fascination, or a problem to be solved.”


“In David Ebenbach’s touching new novel, Miss Portland, the ‘home’ our protagonist is looking for is a place where she can be accepted with all her idiosyncrasies and passions…. [I]t’s about how one woman comes to terms with herself, her choices, and her own difference in a world that values similarity and punishes ‘originality.’ […] Where Zoe chooses to go, and what she finds in her final quest, illuminate both her past and her future.”


“Ebenbach does wonders in capturing the uncertainties, and the ruminating, that come from new relationships and from trying to work through the thickets of young adulthood. He also makes sense of how bipolar disorder can shift everything, back and forth, like trying to balance a tray full of dishes while walking on the deck of a boat beset by a storm.”


“Anybody who has ever tried (again) to make a fresh start, to begin again (again), to give it all another shot someplace else (again), will adore Miss Portland and its hero, Zoe Tussler, a woman who can’t make up her mind about very much, and yet is very much a survivor. Miss Portland is a book that makes not figuring out not only alright, but actually kind of inspiring. Zoe is a complex character with a big heart and a hectic mind. As she says late in the book: ‘But I’ve tried everything! And I’m always the same!’ Isn’t this the truth? For so many of us. God knows I include myself. And Zoe is the sort of character who will stick with you, not only because she might well remind you of yourself or someone you know, but also because she’s an utterly unique character in her own right. By the end of the book you’ll be seeing the world through Zoe’s eyes and you’ll find beauty in just being able to get through the day, which, when you think about it, is pretty huge. This is a very memorable and humane book, the kind of book we need more of.”

-PETER ORNER, judge of the 2016 Orison Fiction Prize

“In his novel, Miss Portland, David Ebenbach graces us with an unforgettable portrait of Zoe, a young visionary and divine innocent suffering from a diagnosis of the psyche that falls short of healing. With rabbinic wisdom, the sweet truths of parable and perfect wit, Ebenbach reminds us that what we can most richly give and receive from one another on this earth are acts of loving kindness and humble, curative gestures of empathy.”

-MELISSA PRITCHARD, recipient of The Flannery O’Connor Award

“David Ebenbach’s novel Miss Portland accomplishes something remarkable, which is to make the mind of someone who thinks differently from most of us accessible and sympathetic. This book manages to be at once enchanting and deeply troubling, beautifully simple and subtly complex, a pleasure to read and something that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.”

-EMILY MITCHELL, author of Viral and The Last Summer of the World




David Ebenbach is the author of three short story collections: The Guy We Didn’t Invite to the Orgy and other stories (winner of the Juniper Prize, University of Massachusetts Press), Between Camelots (winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, University of Pittsburgh Press), and Into the Wilderness (Winner of the Washington Writers Publishing House Fiction Prize, WWPH). He is also the author of a full-length collection of poetry, We Were the People Who Moved (Winner of the Patricia Bibby Prize, Tebot Bach), a chapbook of poetry, Autogeography (Finishing Line Press), and a guide to the creative process called The Artist’s Torah (Cascade Books). Ebenbach holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. He teaches creative writing at Georgetown University.
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