The Abstinence Teacher Author:Tom Perrotta Stonewood Heights is the perfect place to raise children: it has the proverbial good schools, solid values and a healthy real estate market. It’s the kind of place where parents are involved in their children’s lives–coaching sports, driving carpool, taking an interest in their development at every level. The Abstinence Teac... more »her focuses on two divorced parents who each play key roles in the lives of other people’s children: Ruth Ramsey is the human sexuality teacher at the local high school who believes that “pleasure is good, shame is bad, and knowledge is power.” Her younger daughter’s soccer coach is Tim Mason, a former stoner and rocker whose response to hitting rock bottom was to reach out and be saved. Tim is a member of The Tabernacle, the local evangelical Christian church that wants to take its message outside the doors of its own sanctuary, and sees a useful target in Ruth Ramsey. Adversaries in a small-town culture war, Ruth and Tim instinctively distrust one another. But when a controversy on the playing field forces the two of them to actually talk to each other, an uneasy friendship begins to develop.
The Abstinence Teacher illuminates the powerful emotions that run beneath the placid surface of modern family life, and explores the complicated spiritual and sexual lives of ordinary people. Elegantly and simply written, the book has the distinctive mix of satire and compassion readers have responded to in Perrotta’s
Ruth arrived late and mildly hungover for her daughter’s soccer game on Saturday morning. Smiling queasily, she made her way down the sideline, nodding hello to the more punctual parents, many of whom she hadn’t seen in quite a while. A few of the spectators were sitting in collapsible chairs, but most were on their feet, chatting in sociable clumps as they sipped from state-of-the-art stainless steel travel mugs, giving the whole scene the air of an outdoor cocktail party.
As usual, Ruth’s ex-husband, Frank, had removed himself from the talkers, his attention focused solely on the game. He stood like the baseball player he’d once been–knees bent, hands resting on his thighs–observing the action with an expression of intense absorption that Ruth might have mistaken for disgust if she hadn’t known him so well.
“Morning,” she said, tugging gently on his sleeve. “How we doing?”
“Tied at two,” he muttered, shooting her a reproachful glance. “First half’s almost over. Maggie thought you forgot.”
“Ever hear of an alarm clock?”
“Didn’t go off,” she explained, leaving out the part about how she’d unplugged the thing in a fit of three-in-the-morning insomniac misery. Because, really, what was worse than lying wide awake in the dark, watching your life drip away, one irreplaceable minute after another?