Texas kind of creeps me out, to be perfectly honest. When I think of the Longhorn State, I think of Waco and capital punishment and those Bush people. To be fair, I’ve never spent any quality time in the state, and I’ve heard that Austin is pretty cool. And I will admit that there are quite a few fabulous writers in Texas, so that place can’t be all bad. I’m thinking especially of Spike Gillespie, Robert Rummel-Hudson, Marit Ingram, and Sarah Bird.
Sarah Bird first appeared on my reader radar with The Yokota Officer’s Club, of which I have finally procured a copy, but haven’t yet read. My first experience with a Sarah Bird novel was The Flamenco Academy, which I loved, loved, loved. That book was intense and passionate and full of duende. It was kind of serious, actually, so I didn’t realize how very funny Ms. Bird can be. Then a week or so ago I read How Perfect is That. The woman is hilarious.
How Perfect is That is the story of one Blythe Young, originally christened Chanterelle by her “trailer-trash tramp of a mother too stupid to know that in her single, solitary moment of maternal lyricism she had named her only child after a mushroom.” Blythe becomes an event planner for Austin’s elite, marries into one of the elitest families, is divorced without a pre-nup, and finds herself broke, outcast, and wanted by the IRS. She winds up hiding out in her old college boarding house with her former college roommate, the pure and good Millie, who still lives there as a kind of house mother. Only Millie, it seems, can see the good in Blythe (who has been ignoring her for years). Hijinks ensue.
Blythe is exceedingly naughty (at her last catering job, she spikes the drinks with Rohypnol, the “date rape drug” so that the garden party attendees won’t remember that they’d been noshing on re-purposed snacks from Sam’s Club instead of the gourmet delights originally promised. In the first several chapters, she clings tenaciously to her “Code Warrior,” a mix of booze and drugs. In other words, she is not necessarily the type of person you’d want as your best friend, i.e., she is a somewhat unsympathetic main character. In an interview at the back of the book, Bird says, “I may be a complete freak in this, but I loves me a bad girl.” But like all good characters, Blythe isn’t entirely good/bad, and I found myself rooting for her by the end of book. I was also laughing out loud.
If you’ve got a long trans-Pacific flight ahead of you this summer (and if you’re not a diehard Republican and don’t mind a bit of bawdiness), I recommend tucking this novel into your carry-on.