Monday, November 12, 2007


That's right, I spent a good portion of my weekend reading the new novel from Tom Perrotta, The Abstinence Teacher. I first heard of Perrotta through the movie adaptation of Election, which still remains a favorite film. I eventually got around to reading the book as well. When Little Children came out, I bought it right away and it was one of my favorite books that year (still haven't seen that movie adaptation, however). So, I got myself on the request list at the library for the new one and it fell to me fairly quickly.

It's the story of Ruth Ramsey, a high school Sex Ed teacher who has found herself in hot water over a random comment in class that some people enjoy oral sex. It's also the story of Tim Mason, who has found Jesus after years of destructive behaviors (drugs, alcohol, adultery). Tim is the soccer coach of Ruth's daughter Maggie and Ruth is attracted to him upon first meeting; Tim then leads the girls in a spontaneous prayer after a victory and Ruth gets very upset. That drives the plot of the book.

Perrotta tackles faith, love, sex, the lies we tell ourselves, family, loneliness, and other aspects of human nature. The book is satirical but also has heart to it. Take the figure of Pastor Dennis, for instance. He comes off like a showman and someone who is more worried about numbers than the actual souls of the people he is trying to save...and yet, we also realize that it does matter to him. In the end, nobody's perfect, believer or non-believer. And we're all just trying to make any connection we can.

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