Cascone, whose earlier book, the non-fiction Pagan Babies and Other Catholic Memories (1982), lambasted her Catholic school education, here takes on motherhood in a first novel that's much more hyper-energetic and frothy. To readers of Up the Sandbox, The Women's Room--even Erma Bombeck--housewife Paula's grievances will seem all too familiar. (""You know, Ben,"" she tells her upwardly mobile spouse, ""people are a lot nicer to you if you have herpes than if you have children."") And, indeed, Paula, 30, is off in search of the married feminist's Holy Grail, The Person I Used to Be. To find her. Paula first falls into bed with an 18-year-old (the ""little helper"" of the title), then confronts her best friend, her husband, and finally, the Job Market. (The last is kind of a cheat; she ends up working for her lover's mother.) All of this is done with a kind of fast-clip wisecracking that can be successful only in the most confident of hands--tending to undercut, otherwise, the necessary dramatic weight of the material; and here, despite the occasionally successful one-liner, Cascone's satire is simply too breezy and reflexively familiar to captivate an audience looking for real solutions. In all, more puffed wheat than whole wheat, with attendant anemia.