How Perfect Is That marks Sarah Bird ’s return to the madcap plotting that was her stylistic calling card in late-eighties novels like The Boyfriend School . It’s an entertaining flashback, but why now? The Texas Monthly writer-at-large was coming off her two finest novels, The Yokota Officers Club and The Flamenco Academy —literary sorties to post–World War II Okinawa and the caves of Sevilla that flashed humor against the horrors of wartime Japan and the smoky magic of Gypsy culture. Here Bird departs from that standard and spins a slapsticky yarn about the downfall of Austin socialite Blythe Young: Divorced, disowned, and ostracized by her nipped-and-tucked friends, the has-been hostess retreats to an unlikely haven—her old room in the patchouli-drenched Seneca Falls Housing Co-op. When Blythe’s idealistic past and cynical present collide, How Perfect Is That shows a satirical bite worthy of its author. Knopf, $23.95 .