We probably didn’t need another comic novel about life at an absurdly bureaucratic and insular American university, but Houston memoirist Emily Fox Gordon gets a pass for her well-honed and earthy satire It Will Come to Me. Ruth Blau is a 56-year-old faculty wife; her husband, Ben, chairs the philosophy department at Lola Dees Institute, a thinly disguised stand-in for Rice University, where Gordon teaches. Before the birth of her only son, Isaac, Ruth is a novelist of some promise, but as the teenage Isaac skids down an unthinkable slope from underachieving student to homeless adult, she schlumps into a middle-aged torpor punctuated only by boozy tantrums and epic arguments with Ben. The book derives great humanity and warmth from its depiction of the couple’s frailty: Ruth carries her unpublished manuscript to hot young author Ricia Spottiswoode’s book signing, knowing full well that she is broadcasting her desperation; Ben can’t bring himself to lower the boom on his maladjusted incompetent of a secretary. Gordon occasionally loses focus—particularly in one stagy ladies-room encounter between Ruth and Spottiswoode—but it’s a small price to pay for the pleasures of this disarming and perceptive first novel. Spiegel & Grau, $24.95