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The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

The Abstinence Teacher (edition 2007)

by Tom Perrotta

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1,8531093,730 (3.41)64
Title:The Abstinence Teacher
Authors:Tom Perrotta
Info:St. Martin's Press (2007), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Pima County Public Library, pcpl, staff pick, suburbia, sex, sex education, religion,

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The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta



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Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
3.5 stars, if I may be that specific. I liked this book. That doesn't come as a surprise to me because I like all of Perrotta's books. But, maybe those other books are why I didn't LOVE this one. Compared to the others, this one is just OK. I would tell people to read it, but only after they read Little Children and The Leftovers.

Perrotta is one of my favorite contemporary writers. He writes with such wonderful humor and ease. His books are always "good reads." The characters are well-drawn and the plots are engaging. This book focuses very heavily on religion. Out of all his books, this seemed to be trying hardest to make a point. As a reader, I didn't love the transparency of that intention, but I still enjoyed the story. ( )
  KimHooperWrites | Jun 22, 2015 |
This is a great audio book. Ending comes up too soon though! ( )
  spincerely | Mar 10, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 107 (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)
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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
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.
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.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:52 -0400)

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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.

(summary from another edition)

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