The Abstinence Teacher Author:Tom Perrotta Tom Perrotta knows his suburbia, and in The Abstinence Teacher he carves out an even larger chunk of his distinct terrain. Set in the northeastern suburb of Stonewood Heights, Perrotta's sixth book takes on the war between the liberals and the evangelists. When single mother Ruth Ramsay, the sex ed teacher at the local high school, tells her cla... more »ss that oral sex can be enjoyable, the Tabernacle of the Gospel Truth church begins its crusade. Believable or not, the school agrees to an abstinence curriculum and in marches JoAnn Marlowe with her blonde hair and pumps to instill in Ruth the tenets of the new program. Gone are the days of rolling a condom over a cucumber; now Ruth is required to promote restraint, which she does wearily and halfheartedly. These are heady days, when students rat out their teachers and the local soccer coach?Ruth's daughter is on his team?is a divorced ex-druggie and active Tabernacle member. When Tim leads the team in prayer, Ruth wrenches her daughter from the circle and the hostility between the opposing camps grows. Who is bad and who is good? Ruth's youthful promiscuity rises slowly to the surface, while Tim's struggle to stay sober makes him constantly confront his past. He's lost his wife and daughter?also on the soccer team?to his addictions, but now he's clean and married to a Tabernacle girl. His Jesus-loving ways, however, are in direct conflict with his desires, rendering him the most complex and likable character. When he loses his own battle with abstinence at a poker party, the finest scene in the novel culminates with his keying Jesus across the hood of an SUV parked in the drive. Ruth would gladly have sex if it would only come her way, and she also drinks on school nights. A less well-drawn complement to Tim, Ruth is a tolerant liberal with a newly toned body who plays therapist to her gay friends, but who can't accept that her children are interested in Jesus.The lesson is that everybody must give up something. Even Ruth's ex-lover, once a pudgy trumpet player, no longer eats to maintain his abs of steel. So what is lost when we cannot succumb to our desires? Who then do we become? The book is rife with Perrotta's subtle and satiric humor (the Tabernacle is seen as a place of diversity, while the punks, Deadheads and headbangers of Tim's past are all predictably the same), but these questions get lost as the plot winds down. Issues of sex and religion that have shaken the town become, in the end, the story of what Ruth and Tim's newly forged relationship will soon become.« less
The book was well written, and like Jodi Picoult's books, the reader may find themselves siding with characters that may not possess the same values as themselves. However with that said, I was very disappointed in the ending. I felt it just dropped off after a big work up to it.
This book was on my wish list for over a year. It ended up being a disappointment. As another reviewer already mentioned, it ends kind of mid-action, with no resolution whatsoever to the conflict. I wasn't impressed by either of the main characters, who both seemed to have a strong opinion but then throughout the course of the book just kind of watched it float away in the wind. Ruth, the sex-ed teacher, was morally opposed to the abstinence-only program she was forced to teach; I thought that she would rebel against it somehow, championing the student's right to the real facts. However, she just kind of went along with it half-heartedly and, when she was removed from the position, seemed relieved. Tim - the ex-addict-turned-good-Christian - felt strongly about his faith, but when it was really challenged, he just up and decided it wasn't for him any more. Both of these characters were unlikeable wimps. Don't waste your time with this one. If you're interested in Perrotta, read Little Children instead.
Almost halfway through this boring book, I kept thinking, ok, something is just about to happen. By the time I reached the end, I was STILL waiting for something to happen.
This dull & unexciting book would be perfect for those who want to read without thinking, because although it did BRING UP some interesting issues, it never went any further than that with any of them.
Thought-provoking story of seduction within the modern American culture wars. Which is the most seductive force: freedom, love, Jesus, sex, acceptance, moral superiority, family??? The main characters must decide. The author is careful not to judge and lets the reader decide, too. Loved this book.
The story fluctuates between two characters: 1)Ruth, the high school Sex Ed. teacher who is forced to teach an abstinence only program after the school is pressured to change its curriculum due to a growing faction of religious fanatics and 2) Tim, a former drug addict and alcoholic who is a member of this religious faction (also the coach for Ruth's daughter's soccer team) and his internal struggle with the demons from his former life and coping with the disconnection he is feeling with the religion he feels saved his life. All in all, it was an interesting commentary on sex, religion, and (to a degree) how they mix with public education. This story did pose many interesting points without seeming too preachy or critical, just some interesting things to consider while reading. The downside to this book was the ending. It pretty much just stopped. At first I thought I was missing pages (a recent book I read was missing pages, so it wasn't entirely unlikely), but alas, Perrotta just ends the book mid-scene. As a side-note, although the location of the town is never explicitly mentioned, I figure it is in NJ since all the colleges he refers to are NJ colleges or former names of NJ colleges and since I'm from NJ, I liked that (after finishing the book I GOOGLED Perrotta and he grew up in NJ so it's plausible)! :-P
The title of this book and cover info is EXTREMELY misleading! This book is much more about religious choices and the angst of the lead character. I really didn't enjoy this book, in fact our whole book club gave it a big fat zero!