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The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
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Jul 05, 2008

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Read in July, 2008

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 looking particularly wonderful either... not that the other side (Ruth) ends up looking much better.

I think my biggest regret about this book is that we never see the second half of Tim's "growth," so to speak. Tim is by far the most complex and interesting character in the book, and at the exact moment that Tim seems poised to have to deal with all of these issues he's brought up in his life and the results of the decisions he's made, Perrotta slams on the brakes.

I just happened to come across this quote from Nick Hornby while reading his blog tonight:

"Tom Perrotta, the author of Little Children and Election, has written a very good novel about liberalism versus Christianity entitled ‘The Abstinence Teacher’. It’s funny and convincing and timely, and anyone who is mystified by the state of the States should read it when it’s published here next year. You won’t find any answers, because there aren’t any. But you might end up understanding a little more."

I disagree on the "convincing" part, and while I obviously think less of the book than Hornby does, I do think it's worth a read.
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message 1: by Kate (new) - rated it 1 star

Kate I think my biggest regret about this book is that we never see the second half of Tim's "growth," so to speak. Tim is by far the most complex and interesting character in the book, and at the exact moment that Tim seems poised to have to deal with all of these issues he's brought up in his life and the results of the decisions he's made, Perrotta slams on the brakes."

EXACTLY. What happens? I kept looking for an epilogue to find out what happens to everyone after the last page climax of the book!


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