Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER by Tom Perrotta

This book has two main characters who couldn’t be more different.  Ruth is a divorced mother of two who teaches Sex education at the local middle school.  She has always prided herself on teaching the children facts that will keep them safe.  However, when the daughter of a born-again Christian family reports back to her parents something Ruth said in class, lawyers are quickly involved.  In an attempt to fend off a lawsuit, the school board implements a new abstinence only education program.  Ruth tries to follow the new ciricculum, but her conscience nags at her constantly. 

Tim is one of the born-again Christians who attend the new evangelical church in town.  A former rocker and drug addict, he has found the strength through his faith to clean up his life.  He is now a mortgage broker who coaches a girls’ soccer team on the side.  One of the girls on his team is Ruth’s daughter.  With her nerves on edge from the public controversy surrounding her, Ruth completely loses it when she witnesses Tim leading her daughter’s soccer team in a post-game prayer. 

Both Ruth and Tim find themselves struggling to uphold their convictions while having to conform to public opinion.  This parallel existence brings them together into something like a friendship. 

I loved this book.  I thought the writing was brilliant.  Perrotta is one of the best contemporary writers I have read when it comes to interesting description.  I also loved the flow of the book—the way it rotated between both Ruth and Tim’s points of view.  It really helped to see the parallels they were living.  Lastly, the characters felt real.  They were flawed, non-stereotypical—I didn’t agree with either of them 100% of the time, yet I liked them both.  Very good read.

Overall, I give The Abstinence Teacher…

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 5 bookmarks
Dissection of Moral Issues – 4 ½ bookmarks (Really made an attempt to show all sides.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Kate Winslet (Ruth), Aaron Eckhart as he looked in Erin Brockovich (Tim), Philip Seymour Hoffmann (Pastor Dennis)


  1. This sounds really good! I'll put it on my to-read list. Think this is something my book club might be able to read?

  2. The would make a great book for a book club. Lots to discuss.