Super Host

Putnam. Jun. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780593187708. $27. F
DEBUT In this first novel, 55-year-old Bennett Driscoll is a super host, renting out on Airbed the elegant suburban London home where he once lived with the wife who has left him and living in his backyard studio. For Bennett Driscoll is also an artist, a former Turner Prize nominee who still paints regularly, though his gallery and his audience have, like his wife, abandoned him. At least his art-student daughter stays loyal. Bennett’s essentially a genial if slightly flummoxed guy, though his wittily sardonic side is revealed in the many asides to which readers are privy. But his various tenants—socially maladroit Alicia, OCD-challenged Emma, and needy new divorcee Kirstie—as well as bartender and new love interest Claire highlight Bennett’s essential problem: figuring out what were the missteps in his life and what he really wants now. Meanwhile, he’s haunted by space, staring out at the home he once inhabited, his sense of invaded privacy paralleling his sense of lost self.
VERDICT A painter herself, Russo makes the act of creating art come alive, while effectively limning her characters in this incisive study of contemporary life. [See Prepub Alert, 12/9/19.]
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