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The Abstinence Teacher

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  16,315 ratings  ·  2,373 reviews
Stonewood Heights is the perfect place to raise kids. It's got 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, where no opportunity for enrichment goes unexplored.

Ruth Ramsey is the human sexuality teacher at the local high school. She believes that "pleasure is good,
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Random House Canada (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.25  · 
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 ·  16,315 ratings  ·  2,373 reviews

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Feb 24, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Mr. Perrotta creates self-fulfilling demimondes in intricate, contemporary 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, strangely enough: "The Leftovers." And this one fits somewhere snuggly in between.
Nov 13, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Jul 28, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 Im always on the lookout for books, fiction and non-fiction, related to them to fuel my interest. Ive 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 rated it it was amazing
When it comes to my sex life, theres a lot my parents dont need to know. They dont 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 wasnt entirely comfortable with. They dont need to know who I lost my virginity to, or what my current boyfriend and I do behind closed ...more
Abigail Hillinger
Oct 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction

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
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Derek Emerson
Jan 01, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Ya know, I liked this book but the ending kinda left me feeling unfulfilled. I like closure.
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Stuart Nachbar
Aug 21, 2008 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 the
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable! Perotta's "The Abstinence Teacher," was an exceptionally realistic and relatable book, discussing many topics pertinent in our society since the beginning of time. Struggles with addiction, straying from marriages, (if not physically, in thoughts) seeking a relationship with a power greater than ourselves, and all the deep soul searching this involves. . . Such as working on being selfless, and humbling ourselves in the quest to stay the course.

This novel puts a bright spotlight on
Oct 24, 2007 rated it liked it
I don't know what it is about his books, they start off so well & then they just fall flat at the end.
Maisha Rho
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was ok
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 rated it liked it
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
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Angel Strandjev
Jul 07, 2014 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
Lindsey Dean
Feb 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
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 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Ramsey is the Sex Ed teacher at a local high school. She firmly believes that providing kids with a strong knowledge of safe sex practices will result in them coming to mature decisions. Knowledge is power, after all. When the local evangelical church The Tabernacle begins to intervene in the school curriculum, Ruth decides to take a stand. The church is pushing abstinence only education that has been proven not to work. Ruth finds herself facing the decision to follow her values or tow the ...more
Mar 05, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jun 06, 2012 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
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel, audible
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
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Tom Perrotta is the bestselling author of nine works of fiction, including Election and Little Children, both of which were made into Oscar-nominated films, and The Leftovers, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning HBO series. His work has been translated into a multitude of languages. Perrotta grew up in New Jersey and lives outside of Boston.

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