How Perfect Is That Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Jun 10 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In the latest from seasoned Texan social satirist Bird (The Flamenco Academy, etc.), Blythe Young's recent divorce from Trey Dix has left her outside the protective bubble of Austin's high society. As her catering business goes broke and the IRS starts to chase her down, Blythe seeks a haven at Seneca House, the housing co-op where she lived 10 years ago during college. There, she must face Millie Ott, one of many friends Blythe shucked off in a frenzy of social climbing. Once portly Millie is now slender and, as a perfect foil for Blythe, also saintly: she delivers aid to the homeless by way of a tandem recumbent bike (which Blythe names the dorkocycle). At Seneca House, Blythe tries to make amends with people she's stepped on, to avoid the IRS, and to kick both a lingering drug habit and an addiction to scamming people into helping her out. She slowly starts to wins over the affection of her housemates until one of her unthinking decisions brings potential ruin on the co-op's financial well-being. The result is a laugh-out-loud addition to Bird's long line of estrogen-fueled dramedies. (June)
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“Anyone who picks up Sarah Bird's How Perfect Is That expecting chick-lit better be wearing a flack jacket. This is hard-edge, scary-funny social comedy and not for sissies. Brits do this well, but not many Americans. But then again, not many Americans have experienced the poisonous social whirl of Texas Republican Ladies at the zenith of the Bush hegemony. Bird's heroine is admittedly no better than she should be. In fact, she probably deserves Trollope's title: ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ And I, for one, can forgive her without hesitation. She has seen the affect-challenged harpies in all their toxic vulgarity. So forget about Scott McClellan: this is ‘What Really Happened’--out there where it hurts to laugh but you laugh anyway. Then pray.” –Dave Hickey
“A perfect, curl-up-with-a-margarita splash of summer fun. Ms. Bird’s wickedly good grasp of social satire couldn’t be finer.” —The Dallas Morning News
“A delightful tale–part social satire, part comedy, part drama . . . Bird paces her story with rollicking hilarity and scathing insight.” —Candace Horgan, Elle’s Readers’ Prize 2008
“Bird details her pilgrim’s progress with an acute eye and ear–and a scorching sense of humor.” —The Austin Chronicle
“Sparks and laughs fly.” —The New York Post, “Required Reading”
“A fast-paced, fun story by a smart, sensitive woman of a certain age. . . a perfect summer read.” —Palm Beach Post
“How Perfect Is That? Pretty damned perfect. Sarah Bird’s scathingly funny look at red state high society delivers a novel that's equal parts Edith Wharton and Nick Hornby. Hilarious.”–Will Clarke, author of Lord Vishnu's Love Handles and The Worthy
“Friends, you've got a treat in store. A laugh-out-loud riches-to-rags tale, a novel of manners that's perfect for the 'coming to our senses' post-Bush age. How Perfect is That is a fried Twinkie of a book–crunchily witty, creamy-hearted and shockingly delicious.” –Janet Fitch, author of Paint It Black and White Oleander
Praise for Sarah Bird's past work
“Do not eat or drink while reading this book. It has so many laughs I almost choked to death.” –Florence King
“Sarah Bird is a fearless madcap. . . falling-off-the-chair hilarious.” –The Los Angeles Times
“Sarah Bird writes fiction with such energy and snap, her novels seem to be in motion. . . Breathtaking.”
–Dallas Morning News
“Bird’s writing brings to life every person and place. . . Laughter comes often and is uncontrolled. The compulsion to read segments out loud . . . is overwhelming.”–The Chicago Tribune
“A very funny book, too–sometimes savagely so. . . It is, in short, a treat.” –San Jose Mercury News
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
At the same locally owned bookstore, I grabbed a front seat to hear Bird talk about her new book that characterizes Austin's elite -- so that it is. Not being able to wait for the time or space to read the book, I called in sick and settled down to read How Perfect Is That. So what if I got fired for being a no-show, it was worth it.
That Sarah Bird knows how to create a character, and How Perfect Is That gives readers a slew of tasty characters to devour. From Trey Biggs Dix to Kittie Lee Teeter, Bird is an attuned anthropologist who gives her audience a tour through Austin's social scene with several side trips to its prominent bastions of counterculture, politics and dropouts. Certainly, Bird is a Uniter-Not-A-Divider, as she cooks the worlds of the do-gooders, homeless and social climbers into one juicy dish.
With so many things in life that disappoint, thank goodness Sarah Bird is not one. If you liked any of Bird's previous six novels, you will love this book. If you haven't read her other books, get started!
She was recently married to a very wealthy man and part of a well-known family, but sadly is now divorced and she made the mistake of signing a pre-nup. So she's broke, wearing last years fashion, living in her friends pool-side cabin, and all while trying to maintain her socialite status but failing miserably. Her last chance is to cater an upscale garden party for one of her ritzy friends but that is a total disaster and the last step off the social ladder for her.
She's bankrupt, being hounded by an IRS agent, and stalked by her irate employees who have not been paid for months, she has been publicly humiliated, and is addicted to pharmaceuticals (oh, and have I mentioned that she hasn't had a Pap smear in ten years). Luckily for her she remembers a friend (the only one she can remember and whose calls she's been ignoring) and runs to her for help. The only problem, her friend still resides in the same housing co-op she did back when they were in college. While residing amongst the tattooed, the pierced, the rasta-wannabe's and the musically hip, she begins to face her sins and make amends for her behavior... but not without getting into all types of scrapes and scuffles along the way.
I thought this was hilarious! Blythe is a narrator you will not soon forget. Her story is one full of ups and downs but mostly one of hope. She gets herself into all types of wacky situations and is always in some type of trouble - even when she is trying to do something good it backfires on her. She is funny, sarcastic, witty and clever. All the other characters were quirky and unique and they were just tons of fun. The story is set in Austin, TX and from what I've read from other reviewers - the descriptions of Austin are very accurate and there is a lot of Austin-insider info were someone who is not from or has never been to Austin might not fully comprehend. That was definitely not the case with me and I do fall under the category of never been. This is a quick, easy read with an uplifting message that I would definitely recommend.
The first half or so of this book definitely had "chick lit" elements; however, I actually found the messages in this book to be quite deep -- surprisingly so. As I was reading the last few pages of this book, I was actually tearing up -- real tears of joy. I found HOW PERFECT IS THAT to be almost an inspirational book for me, and it had with some wonderful words of wisdom about love and the value of friendship. This book made me think of all the things in my life that I'm grateful for (as well as those things that I should really work on); and I just wanted to call all my good girlfriends and tell them what they mean to me. (I didn't do that because they'd think I'm nuts, but I hope they are reading this review now and realize what they mean to me!)
Now, I know this review might sound like it's going overboard; and I think some people who read this novel might find it "corny" and feel that the story is tied up entirely too nicely. However, I have to say that I really appreciated this book. That's not to say that HOW PERFECT IS THAT is by any means the "perfect" book or even my favorite book of the year -- I just like that this book made me evaluate my own feelings and actions.
I have to admit that I wasn't always this crazy about this book. I didn't exactly love the first half of it because I found the character of Blythe to be so terribly annoying. After reading the entire book, I understand that that was the author's intent; however, Blythe really was despicable! I got more than a little tired of all her snide comments and how she treated everyone she encountered. Having said that, I did think that the writing was extremely smart and witty; and I found myself laughing at her social commentaries about the Texas wealthy crowd as well as Texas politics.
What I definitely liked about this book is that it shows that even the most unlikeable character (i.e. Blythe) can redeem herself. Trust me when I say that Blythe did a full 180! So ultimately, this book is about redemption. Yet, it's also about forgiveness -- forgiving others as well as ourselves. And, there are lots of other messages too like realizing what's important in our lives and doing things to actually make a difference (like helping those less fortunate than us.) I also loved that HOW PERFECT IS THAT featured the strength and importance of female friendships!
One of my absolutely favorite scenes in this novel is when all the richy-rich (and shallow) women are sharing their feelings at a retreat. It really jumped out at me:
"Friends. Our friends exasperate us. They annoy us. They compete with us. They gossip about us. We gossip about them. But we wouldn't be who we are without them. Millie told me that each friend God gives us is sent for a reason. Maybe she was sent to comfort you. Maybe you were sent to comfort her. Maybe she was put in your life to prod you to become more than you think you can be. Maybe she is the aggravation in the oyster that makes you form a pearl. Maybe she was sent to make you laugh or talk or think."