The Abstinence Teacher
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The Abstinence Teacher

3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  11,915 ratings  ·  1,955 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 358 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Griffin (first published January 1st 2007)
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David
JESUS WANTS YOU ........ TO GROW A PAIR.

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...more
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 [cclapcenter.com].)

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...more
David
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,...more
Michael
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...more
Ceilidh
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
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
Well.

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...more
Imogen
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
Maggie
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
Matt
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...more
Mimi
Perrotta is never the most profound or lyrical novelist, but he's very...competent. In a writers' workshop sort of way. He told a good story with this one, stayed out of the characters' way most of the time, and there were a few snort-out-loud moments of humor. The ending was terrible, but then again I think that about everything I read. Why can no one write a decent ending anymore? Grumble grumble hey you kids get off my lawn.
Sarah
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.
CD
Feb 22, 2009 CD rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Stuart Nachbar
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...more
Sarah
May 11, 2008 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Kit
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...more
Meredith
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...more
Tony
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cher
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...more
Lorraine
May 25, 2008 Lorraine rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Sarah
I'm halfway through and the verdict so far: great idea. Too bad it's so lamely executed.

The main characters are in conflict over their deeply held beliefs... that should make for compelling reading, right? But it just isn't doing it for me. Both the sex ed teacher and the born-again soccer coach are equally righteous and boring.

UPDATE: Also, one of my pet peeves: way too many pop culture references. The Grateful Dead mentions are fine; they work because the character associates the music with h...more
Melissa
I don't know what it is about his books, they start off so well & then they just fall flat at the end.
Kimberly
Ugh. Don't even bother.

In fairness, the premise seems interesting enough: evangelical(ish) church places roots in a town and begins to change the landscape as it grows. Told mostly from two points of view, the story centers around Ruth, a divorced health/sex ed teacher (forced to become an abstinence ed teacher) who has a daughter on a local soccer team, and Tim, the divorced coach of the soccer team who is a former addict turned born-again-Christan and member of the large church. When the coach...more
Heather
hmmmm. Not scathing, not laugh-out-loud funny; comic in the positive, compassionate sense. I missed the outrageousness of some of the things Little Children. ("Slutty Kay!" still laughing over that subplot!) these characters seem real in an ordinary, everyday way. I cared about them and wanted their lives to become happier, without feeling any urgency about it. There's almost no plot; nothing dramatic happens. Fairly superficial action setpieces (busy but without much at stake dramatically) alte...more
Eliza
4/5/2013: At first TAT seems straightforward, aimed at liberal readers (like me) who will wholeheartedly sympathize with the situation Ruth Ramsey finds herself in: being hounded out of her job as a high school sex ed teacher by the new evangelical church in town. "Pastor Dennis" of the "Tabernacle" has managed to get the school board to adopt a new abstinence curriculum, complete with gory details of all the diseases and misfortunes that come to those who indulge in sexual activity. And Ruth, a...more
Erin
I started out really liking this book. Perrotta has a clean, easy-to-read writing style and a sharp attention to detail; many times, he would describe a quirk of someone's behavior or a minor action, and I would think "I can picture EXACTLY what he's talking about". I was also thoroughly enjoying the setup of the brewing war between the Bible-beater Jesus freaks and the unsaved heathens...but that became the problem. It seemed that the entire book was setting up for a big showdown that never cam...more
Todd
After throughly enjoying the novel Little Children (as well as the movie), I decided to try Tom Perrotta’s follow-up novel, The Abstinence Teacher. I’ve been continually impressed by how Perrotta frames the human experience through everyday life, and it’s interesting how much we can learn from one another when we look past the titles and labels that we all seem too eager to proudly display or affix to others. Perrotta is very adept at pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable and acceptable...more
Lauren Fidler
i love tom perrotta. i think he has a vile sense of humor (in a good way) and he gets that contemporary public education is an exercise in demonology,with its burnt out teachers, overpassionate teachers, clueless students, malicious students, inept administration...the list goes on. that is never my problem with this book. nor is his depiction of fucked-up suburbia. i've lived in the suburbs - they're fascinating microcosms.

i also wasn't expecting another "little children" (a book i loved like f...more
Derek Emerson
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
Christine
I really enjoyed Tom Perrotta's Little Children and I was looking forward to The Abstinence Teacher. And I did enjoy it, but I finished it feeling a bit disappointed. It felt like something was missing...

The story centers on Ruth, a 40-something divorcee and a sex education teacher, and Tim, an ex-druggie who has replaced his drug addiction with Jesus. The issues are delineated: do we give our kids what they need in the real world to avoid pregnancy and disease? Or do we aim higher and try to te...more
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just read 7 97 Jul 30, 2011 09:41AM  
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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
More about Tom Perrotta...
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