HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Loading...

The Abstinence Teacher

by Tom Perrotta

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,7671053,983 (3.4)64
Recently added bybenishkhanx, arena50, private library, Merryann, SQbeth, curvymommy, arena90, yougotamber, etbm2003

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 64 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
Sex and religion and trying to live your in as honest a way as you can. Perrotta gives us a readable and thought-provoking tale that's well worth the time.

Bookcrossing: http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/6744050/
  wareagle78 | Jan 22, 2014 |
After reading The Leftovers, I wanted to read this one by Perrotta as well. The struggle surrounding religion is so interesting to me, I feel like I could never get sick of reading these types of books. I was disappointed with this one though. At times it felt like you could tell a male was writing Ruth's character. And I thought the whole naming thing was a bit overkill - Ruth from the book of Ruth. Somehow now that we've seen this done so many times before I find it weird that authors do it now. Also, it felt like the book was swaying in a certain way, labeling Ruth as the woman in need of redemption and a man to marry despite the fact that she's the one who doesn't believe in a being that created women as an afterthought.
I remember this book having a lot of hype surrounding it when it was first published, but I don't think it lives up to that. Ultimately, I think the Perrotta's argument felt limited or like it was trying to break out beyond somewhere he wouldn't let it go. It felt forced and inorganic, bumping characters about in this little cube. The Leftovers seemed to do a much better job of moving beyond a wall. Not they are about the same subject, but that he used religion as a jumping off point. I think that worked better for him. shrug. Honestly, this one just took me a long time to read because I kept getting bored. If you're going to read Perrotta, I would suggest the Leftovers, not The Abstinence Teacher. ( )
  Caitdub | Oct 24, 2013 |
The abstinence movement and the Christian right are two of my favourite topics in relation to American politics, one of my strange hobbies. They both fascinate and horrify me in equal measure and I’m always on the lookout for books, fiction and non-fiction, related to them to fuel my interest. I’ve only read one Tom Perrotta novel before, “Little Children”, which I enjoyed immensely and found to be a well orchestrated satire on suburban life and its less than picture perfect truth, so I entered reading “The Abstinence Teacher” optimistically, only to find myself very disappointed very quickly.

This book isn’t populated by characters; it’s populated by mouthpieces for opinions. Every character acts like a mouthpiece, everything they say seems to be taken from a newspaper article debating the pros and cons of religious and sexual issues, and their functions as mouthpieces don’t give them any room to develop as fully rounded characters independent of the debate Perrotta wants to have. They’re not even well rounded opinions to spout off. There is very little resolution to these points and they don’t seem to develop beyond a few buzzwords or commentary rants better suited to a newspaper opinion page with a limited word count. Things happen and there are some interesting set-ups for what promise to be bigger and more explosive events but they seldom come to fruition. It’s such a disappointment because the potential is definitely there. We only get one or two real scenes of Ruth teaching abstinence and the school politics of it all but Perrotta seems bored, as if he doesn’t want to create any real conflict. I wanted to see more of the newly instigated abstinence classes’ impact on the school and its students. I wanted to see how big an impact the growing churches were having on the community (it’s hinted at and ranted about as yet another mouthpiece opinion but never given much development beyond that.) I wanted to see more of Ruth’s daughters choosing to engage with the church and the tensions it created with Ruth and her anti-church stance. There was plenty of room for these things, why weren’t they there?

There is no real story to speak of, events just ramble along and meander back and forth as the point-of-view switches from divorced mother and health teacher Ruth to born again Christian with a crisis Tim. These two characters are supposed to be engaged in a battle of wits and morals, one being the atheist with a grudge against the radically increasing Christian presence in her school, the other the former drug addicted rock-star who found solace in Christ and wants to be a good person through his teachings. Once or twice, we’re treated to an interesting conversation between the two, and it is interesting to hear their parental stories, but since they spend so little page time together, it makes the weak, abrupt conclusion all the more baffling and lazy. I can’t say I especially disliked Ruth or Tim. As I said before, they were mainly mouthpieces but they did have a lot of things I really liked, such as Tim’s struggle to be what he saw as a good Christian man and Ruth’s relationship with her daughters. Instead of any real development in these traits that actually would have had relevance to the plot, we’re treated to page after page of tell-don’t-show info-dumps of Ruth’s teenage sex escapades, her desperation for a man (because a strong, independent and intelligent 40 something single woman must be in want of a man at every possible moment) and other bites of information that could have been woven much less awkwardly into the story to a much more effective result. There were some moments crying to be re-written, the biggest one that stands out in my mind being a moment where Tim muses about homosexuality and how he doesn’t think it’s a sin (told with the subtlety of a sledgehammer with a talk radio show) when we have an established character who is a gay man working in the high school with Ruth who could have been used much more effectively to portray the topic of homosexuality and its place in the Christian right and schools. Any potential for wit and truly successful satire is gone and the rest just falls flat. (I’m also worried since Perrotta’s prose bugged me quite a bit yet it reminds me so much of my own. I’ve got some rewrites to do.)

Overall, “The Abstinence Teacher” was such a disappointment. It was incredibly mediocre, but not without some merit, and failed to truly get a sense of the contradictions and difficulties of the abstinence movement and the growing presence of the Christian right in public services in America. Perrotta seems more concerned with painting a black and white picture with very broad strokes when what was really needed was a much finer brush and a wider palate of colours.
( )
  Ceilidhann | Sep 20, 2013 |
Perrotta's novel touches on the destructive impact of fundamentalist religous zealots on others. The two princpal characters are Ruth, a high school health teacher and Tim, a recovering addict who has been "saved" by his adoption of religion in a born-again type church. Ruth, while teaching a sex education course to 9th graders, makes an off hand comment about the pleasures of certain sexual practices that reaches the attention of the local fundamentalist church. This creates a public reaction that pressures the school board to adopt a pre-designed curriculum that advances the abstinence only message. The portrayal of this course's content and its champion is so devastating as to be almost comical. However, this cave-in by the school board to the extremists does great harm to Ruth, who is further wounded by the attraction of her daughters to the conservative religion group in town.

Tim is a former rock band member who has had a long and self-destructive experience with drugs. He has lost his family over this and is grieved by their new life without him. While the church has definitely helped him overcome his addictions, its oppressive nature and high demands on him are becoming harder to accommodate. At the church pastor's connivance Tim marries a fellow church member who is clearly a poor match for him. Ruth and he become acquainted through their daughter's soccer team where he is the coach. Tim conducts a post-game prayer session for the team which infuriates Ruth and starts her on a campaign against such inappropriate displays. Over time, she and Tim become attracted to each other and at core each is reacting to the pernicious influence of the church on their lives. By the end, they are going to be together in an attempt to be happy despite the harm that is being done to them by the local church.

The story, which, while mocking in tone, doesn't exaggerate too far the influence of the fundamentalist crowd, points out the massive downside of those who would seek to impose their views of morality on others. ( )
  stevesmits | Jun 22, 2013 |
From Publishers Weekly:
"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 class 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 humour (the Tabernacle is seen as a place of diversity, while the punks, Deadheads and head-bangers 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."

I have enjoyed Perrotta's other works - Election and Little Children more than this novel. I was engaged in the reading of The Abstinence Teacher but I had an underlying irritation throughout. Perrotta's style is always good and he has a great way of looking at suburbia. If you are a Perotta fan I would recommend this book. If you haven't read anythign by Perotta before, I would suggest starting with Little Children or Election or even Joe College as a first go. ( )
  DawsonOakes | Apr 10, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
What a movie it will be: Divorced suburban mother of two fights the Tabernacle crazies who have taken over her school.

The problem is that while Perrotta's novels may make for good movies, they don't make for very good books.
added by Shortride | editEsquire, Benjamin Alsup (Oct 5, 2007)
 
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin; it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.
--The Gospel of Mark
Dedication
For Joe Gordon
First words
On the first day of Human Sexuality, Ruth Ramsey wore a short lime green skirt, a clingy black top, and strappy high-heeled sandals, the kind of attention-getting outfit she normally wouldn't have worn on a date--not that she was going on a lot of dates these days--let alone to work.
Quotations
In terms of the misery they'd spared humanity over the years--the unwanted pregnancies, the horrible diseases, the disrupted young lives--she would have happily placed the humble rubber right up there beside antibiotics and childhood vaccines in the pantheon of Public Health marvels of the Modern World.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312358334, Hardcover)

Stonewood Heights is the perfect place to raise kids.  It's got 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, where no opportunity for enrichment goes unexplored.
 
Ruth Ramsey is the human sexuality teacher at the local high school. She believes that "pleasure is good, shame is bad, and knowledge is power."  Ruth's 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 belongs to The Tabernacle, an evangelical Christian church that doesn't approve of Ruth's style of teaching.  And Ruth in turn doesn't applaud The Tabernacle's mission to take its message outside its doors.  Adversaries in a small-town culture war, Ruth and Tim instinctively mistrust each other. But when a controversy on the soccer field pushes the two of them to actually talk to each other, they are forced to take each other at something other than face value.
 
The Abstinence Teacher exposes the powerful emotions that run beneath the surface of modern American family life and explores the complex spiritual and sexual lives of ordinary people.  Elegantly written, it is characterized by the distinctive mix of satire and compassion that have animated Perrotta's previous novels.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:28 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Teaching human sexuality from a perspective that information and pleasure are top priorities, divorced mom Ruth Ramsey butts heads with the local soccer coach, a divorced former addict who became an evangelical Christian after hitting rock bottom.

» see all 6 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
145 avail.
148 wanted
5 pay4 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.4)
0.5 2
1 10
1.5 2
2 65
2.5 21
3 204
3.5 70
4 194
4.5 15
5 53

Audible.com

Two editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 92,978,305 books! | Top bar: Always visible