BRATTLEBORO — As we all tentatively begin to make our own travel plans for the summer, these may include private rentals — a topic central to Kate Russo’s novel “Super Host,” about a struggling artist who rents out his home to vacationers.
On May 14 at 5 p.m., all are invited to pour a drink and join Russo and Claire Lombardo, author of “The Most Fun We Ever Had” — a novel being adapted for a series to be written by Lombardo and co-produced by Amy Adams and Laura Dern — via Zoom for the Brattleboro Literary Festival’s next Literary Cocktail Hour. The cocktail hours are part of the festival’s 20th year celebration, and the online event is free and open to the public. Registration is at bit.ly/LitCocktail10.
Russo’s book “Super Host” is the story of Bennett Driscoll, a Turner Prize-nominated artist who was once a rising star. Now, at age 55, his wife has left him, he hasn’t sold a painting in two years, and hasn’t been reviewed in five. His gallery wants to stop selling his work, claiming they’ll have more value when he’s dead. Left with a large West London home and no income, he is forced to move into his artist’s studio in the back garden and rent out his house on the popular vacation rental site, AirBed. As he paints, and the finished canvases stack up in a spare room, he obsessively grooms his listing to achieve coveted “Super Host” status on the site. He is broke and lonely, a stranger in his own home, indecisive and “stuck”. All that begins to change when three separate guests — lonely Alicia, obsessive-compulsive Emma and cautiously optimistic divorcée Kirstie — check in to his house and they unwittingly unlock the parts of Bennett he’s forgotten for so long.
Lombardo’s book, “The Most Fun We Ever Had,” explores the imperfect complexities of marriage, parenthood, sisterly bonds and familial ties. When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that awaits them. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are in a state of unrest. In the opening scene, Liza Sorenson, daughter No. 3, flirts with a groomsman at her sister’s wedding. “There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?” Her response was, “It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.”
Russo grew up in Maine but now divides her time between Maine and the United Kingdom. She has a Master of Fine Arts in painting from the Slade School of Fine Art, and while living in London, she worked with the theater group, Love Bites, which presented two of her short plays (“The Blind” and “Bernie’s Night Off”) at the Calder Bookshop Theatre. She exhibits widely in the United States and England. “Super Host” is her first book. Learn more at KateRusso.com and connect on Instagram @RussoKate.
Lombardo is a novelist, teacher and Post-It enthusiast. Her first book, “The Most Fun We Ever Had,” was an instant New York Times bestseller and has been translated or is forthcoming in over a dozen languages. A native of Oak Park, Illinois, she now lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with her dog, Renee.