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The Abstinence Teacher

3.24  ·  Rating Details ·  14,829 Ratings  ·  2,242 Reviews

“Perrotta is that rare combination: a satirist with heart….Those who haven’t curled up on the couch with this writer’s books are missing a very great pleasure.â€â€”Seattle Times

Stonewood Heights is the perfect place to raise children: it’s got good schools, solid values and a healthy real estate market. Parents in the town are involved in their children’s li

Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1st 2007)
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Feb 24, 2009 David rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2009

Tommy, Tommy, Tommy! How did such a promising young literary stud like yourself turn out to be such an emasculated whore? When did things start to go so horribly, horribly wrong?

Let me be clear. When I picked you up at the airport in San Francisco, it was with entirely clear-eyed, realistic expectations. Let's face it. I wasn't looking for the literary love of my life. Just a two-plane romance - enough to while away the time it takes to get from SFO to M
Dec 18, 2014 Fabian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perrotta creates self-fulfilling demimondes in intricate detail. But it's all sound and fury. This one's about what occurs when the Religious Right clashes with more modern and shall we say promiscuous tastes. His best is the hilarious "Joe College." His worst: "The Leftovers." & this one fits somewhere snugly in between.
Nov 13, 2007 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My dad sent me this book, and also the DVD of "Little Children", which is based on his novel of the same name. Here's what I wrote him after reading it:

I went to the theater but it was packed, so I opted out, went to a coffee shop and read Perrotta's book, which I finished this morning. Really bad. If you haven't read it yet, I wouldn't bother. There was something that bothered me about Little Children that I couldn't put my finger on until now. Perrotta is trying to be the moralist of suburbia,
Jason Pettus
(My entire review of this book is much longer than GoodReads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

As I've mentioned here a couple of times before, I've recently become a fairly big fan of movie-friendly author Tom Perrotta; for example, I found his breakthrough 2006 novel Little Children to be a surprisingly complex and subtle look at just what a horrific place the suburbs can be to some people, a stifling environm
2.5 Stars

The Abstinence Teacher is a pretty solid near-three-star read from Tom Perrotta, though I thought he really could've gone a lot farther with his observations on the rift between the religious right and the secular left. It does, though, serve as an ideal warm-up to his (in my opinion) much more fully realized The Leftovers.

Though this 2007 release seems slightly dated, Perrotta's core societal perceptions are just as salient today as they were ten years ago. His protagonist Ruth Ramsey
I really enjoy Tom Perrotta's writing style, and this book is no exception. His prose is smooth and easy, the kind of writing that pulls you into the story and makes you forget you're reading a book. I would compare reading Perrotta to watching an engaging movie. He's just an excellent storyteller.

That said, I have some issues with his latest, The Abstinence Teacher. The book is about a woman named Ruth, a sex ed teacher in Suburbville, USA, who sparks a controversy by responding to a question b
Apr 27, 2011 Ceilidh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Morgue Anne
Feb 02, 2009 Morgue Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When it comes to my sex life, there’s a lot my parents don’t need to know. They don’t need to know that I was deathly afraid of sex until I was almost 18 – not because of those “abstinence only” education documentaries that made sex seem like a death warrant – but because it was me giving something of myself to someone, letting them have a power over me that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. They don’t need to know who I lost my virginity to, or what my current boyfriend and I do behind closed ...more
Abigail Hillinger

I'm rather Tom Perrotta-obsessed. I've been known to babble on about him...over and over and over again.

I was really excited for this book to come out. I loved the concept of Ruth, a Human Sexuality teacher, being called into question for something innocent, a casual remark, and how the hyper-Christian population attacked her like she had horns and had the middle name Lucifer. And the connection between Tim, her daughter's born-again soccer coach, and Ruth are great. The scene where Ruth re
Feb 22, 2009 CD rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
This book was a recommendation for our book club and I have to say it is one of the only books for that group that I think is poorly written. What I was told I would be reading is a funny book about a clash between the health teacher at a school and the local fundamentalist Christian group. I was expecting a collision of ideas, morality, education, parents v. teachers, community standards. What I got was something else completely.

It started off with the health teacher and it seemed to be progre
Jan 10, 2008 Maggie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Perrotta's latest installment uses public school health teachers and suburban soccer moms and dads to examine the war between liberals and evangelicals. For over ten years Ruth Ramsay let her motto of "Pleasure is good, shame is bad, and knowledge is power" guide her teaching of human sexuality; in her classroom no subject was forbidden, but the envelope is eventually pushed too far when, in response to a student's vocal disgust over oral sex, she replies, "some people enjoy it." A student compl ...more
Stuart Nachbar
Aug 21, 2008 Stuart Nachbar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Abstinence Teacher Gets an A in My Grade Book

Tom Perrotta and I have two things in common: New Jersey roots and novels about sex education; his latest work, The Abstinence Teacher is the only other novel, besides my own, The Sex Ed Chronicles, that I have read which covers a subject that is still considered taboo in some social circles.

The Abstinence Teacher has two main characters: Ruth Ramsey, a divorcee’ and high school sex educator who makes one inappropriate comment too many, drawing th
Derek Emerson
Jan 01, 2010 Derek Emerson rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2010-books-read
This week I read the "New York Times Bestseller," The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta. While not liking the book is one thing, hating it is another. I hated this book! I'm actually angry about it and it has been nearly a week since I pushed myself through it in two days. Two days is plenty of time since it would appear it took that long to write (although Perrotta claims two years). What surprises me is my anger. I think, through no fault of his own, it's because this IS a New York Times bes ...more
Mar 30, 2017 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perrotta's characters are so interesting. I liked the story and this book was full of surprising little observations and witticisms. My favorite was probably, "She majored in psychology and minored in Doritos." There was also a funny exchange between one of the characters and his teenage daughter, who had chosen Donald Trump for a paper about a man she admired. When he asked why, she said, He's successful," and he answers that that didn't mean he wasn't a bad person. That's funny in today's cont ...more
Jun 05, 2009 Imogen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I remembered Jessa from Bookslut going off about this book for a long time, so I was excited to read it, but goodreads, I can't lie to you: it reminds me of the capital letter Literary Fiction I used to write when I was nineteen, and I am NOT proud of that stuff. "I'm going to tell the story from The Enemy's point of view," I'd think, "to show that they are people too." But, I mean, duh. One, there is no enemy, and two, duh! Obviously evangelical Christians are real people. So... I hated the Gra ...more
Aug 17, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Tom Perrotta, and this book was no exception. He writes in such a way that he makes it look easy, when it is anything but. And I love how much depth he finds in characters that other writers might see as simply stereotypes.
Maisha Rho
This book was very difficult for me to read. It was a very mature book and I'm glad that I finished it. It was hard for me to find the main parts of the story because there was three parts of the story. It is about these two people. One is named Ruth and the other one is named Tim. they are both adults and Ruth has been through a terrible divorce and her kids are breaking apart from her. Tim is a recovering drug and alcohol addict and he is recovering with God's help. He is a soccer coach and is ...more
Jul 08, 2008 Kit rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: peanut-m-ms
I'm about halfway through this, and am not loving it. Maybe the ending will pull thigns together (and pull this off).

Where I am now: characters are stock characters, so am assuming the point is not character or character development, but some larger point about our culture and its issues about the roles of sexuality and religion.

A parent is shocked/distressed that their child's health ed (sex ed) teacher says that some people like oral sex (and, presumably, not so happy that the teachers flips
Jul 05, 2008 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After LITTLE CHILDREN, this book seems totally light-weight. Definitely not a bad book, but the characters were painted a little too broadly for my tastes (Ruth's gay best friends, for example, or the stereotypical "ms. perfect" abstinence pusher).

Perrotta tries his best to present both sides of the religious debate as equally valid, but his heart really isn't in it (not that I blame him). While none of the religious characters come off as complete left-wing stereotypes, none of them come off lo
Mar 23, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Laura, Lynne, Toni
Shelves: general-fiction
The story unfolds...It sounds like such a cliche but that truly is the best way to describe this absorbing read. Perrota does an excellent job of reeling the reader in, slowly disclosing background information and details about the main characters, all the while allowing the story to be told. Perrota never hints at his own personal position on the controversial issues raised by this novel (i.e. educating high school students about abstinence, public prayer, Christianity.) Both of the main charac ...more
Lindsey Dean
Feb 09, 2017 Lindsey Dean rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishihadn-t
The only good thing this book had going for it was that it was well written enough that I finished it. But that's about it. Frustrating content and a story that waffled at best and was a yarn ball of loose ends and unfinished sentences and NO climax at worst. Coming to the end, I wish I hadn't bothered.

Ugh, no the more I think about it the more annoyed I am at having this clunky, unsatisfying story in my brain.
May 22, 2016 Meggyn rated it did not like it
ZERO stars, abandoned halfway. As a sex-positive feminist and musician in a Christian rock band, I thought the abstinence argument would be an interesting minor conflict in the middle of a fun, silly rom-com. Instead, this book was disgustingly problematic: filled with fat shaming, Islamophobia, women as objects, and sexualization of prepubescent girls by adult men. 200 pages in, my flight finally landed, and this book was no longer my only alternative to mile-high boredom. Book, meet dumpster.
I don't know what it is about his books, they start off so well & then they just fall flat at the end.
Mar 05, 2008 Lorraine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians in book clubs
Recommended to Lorraine by: AnnaVR
A friend suggested I read this book and tell her what I thought, because "it's different" and it was. It warrants discussion, because I don't think I can fully appreciate all of it on my own (yet I didn't like it enough to want to reread it). 3 stars because I'm torn between liking it and not liking it.

I thought the book would be more focussed on the abstinence teacher's struggles with her sex ed curriculum, but that wasn't really the focus of the book at all. It starts the book off, and produce
Jun 06, 2012 Meredith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I only finished this book because I had already listened to 4.5 of the 9 discs when its potential finally crashed and burned.

This novel should be called The Convert or The Convert Awaiting His Chance to Backslide rather than The Abstinence Teacher since the title The Abstinence Teacher misleadingly suggests that the implementation of an "abstinence only" sex education program, its effect on the students, and the battle about the programs in community would be the subject.

In interviews the auth
Mar 26, 2011 Brooke rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-books
Sorry this post took so long! I was driving cross country with the hubs!!

I finished The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta a couple of weeks ago, so this review is far from fresh. The basic premise involves a high school sex ed teacher, Ruth, who innocently explains to a student that oral sex can be pleasurable and safe. The Christian conservatives in the town set out on a witch hunt to silence Ruth and implement abstinence only education in the school system. A few weeks later Ruth meets Tim, o
Jul 15, 2008 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 04, 2009 Cher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The obvious confrontation in this story is between the Christian's perception of the "godlessness" and the non-Christians who perceive the Christians as zealots who push their beliefs down other's throats. However, religion aside, the bigger point seems to be an overall lack of tolerance for diversity. Aren't we all tempted to justify our own convictions and values? And in doing so, aren't we somewhat blinded to the fact that our adversaries are just doing the same?

Each main character can be acc
Angel Strandjev
Jul 07, 2014 Angel Strandjev rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started this book more of curiosity and certainly I never thought it would be a page-turner. The story revolves around two characters - Ruth Ramsey, an agnostic sex education teacher in a not so conservative northeast US town and Tim Mason, a former rock bassist with a history of drug and alcohol abuse who has recently found Jesus and the way their paths cross. It has all the ingredients of a good book: original story; dynamic, multi-layered characters, controversial subject and a lot of food ...more
Nov 06, 2013 Graham rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stopped-reading
I had high hopes for this book. It seemed like the sort of thing I'd love: liberal sex-ed teacher pitted against puritanical religious freaks. It could have been great.

Unfortunately, it wasn't. The dialogue was stilted (and sometimes stupid) and after a few witty introductory pages, the premise quickly seemed to veer away from what I assumed the novel to be about. There was little subtlety in the way the characters were written, and I just stopped caring. Maybe I'm spoiled because I've been read
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Madison Mega-Mara...: The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta 3 8 Feb 24, 2012 04:10PM  
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Tom Perrotta (born August 13, 1961) is an American novelist and screenwriter best known for his novels Election (1998) and Little Children (2004), both of which were made into critically acclaimed, Golden Globe-nominated films. Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay for the 2006 film version of Little Children with Todd Field, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay ...more
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