Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

Summary (from the Publisher):
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 Teacher 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.
My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book. I had read mixed reviews. I found the juxtaposition of fanatic religion and anti-religion to be interesting. While I tended to relate more to Ruth, a sex education teacher who is forced to adhere to a strict abstinence focused program, I at times was frustrated with how close minded she was. I enjoyed reading the parts about Ruth more than the parts about Tim. I found Tim to be bland and seemingly without much personality. I suppose that it might be on purpose to show how fanatic religion has taken over Tim's personality and he doesn't quite know who he is anymore. I just found it funny that both sides were evenly close minded. I grew up in a Catholic family, going to church every Sunday and going to Catholic school. While I do not follow organize religion anymore, I can see the value in it. This being said I think that people need to be less close minded to things. Ruth rejects all things religion and is upset when her daughters want to go to church. Tom's church believes in Christianity to the exclusion of all other things. There needs to be some kind of balance in life. Overall, this book is easy to read because the characters draw you in. That being said, I'm not sure if I find the ending believable. I won't spoil anything for anyone but the ending seems to be something to be expected but shouldn't happen. Overall, I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

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