The Next Best Book Club discussion

Group Read Discussions > The Abstinence Teacher

Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Apr 28, 2008 07:34AM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10095 comments Mod
Here is the thread for your May read "The Abstinence Teacher". If you are going to be posting information that could possibly discuss something other readers may not know yet, please begin your thread with SPOILER ALERT.

Thanks, and have fun!

message 2: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) Okay, so I'm only 50 pages in, but Tom Perrotta never ceases to amaze me with his ability to perfectly capture suburbia (Anytown, USA). You know the place where severe idealism and perpetual boredom runs so rampant that people have to invent things to bitch about??

message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa "The Abstinence Teacher" is the next book up on my list. I just have to finish "The Old Man and the Sea" today.

message 4: by Lisa (new)

Lisa It struck me today as I was writing my review of this book so far that Ruth and Tim are fighting for the same thing to live on their own terms and not be judged. I can't wait to see how it ends--I have about 200 more pages to go.

message 5: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10095 comments Mod
Ok, So I finally started the book. Granted, I am only one chapter in, but it's begun!

I do have to say that.. It has been awhile since Ive read a regular, run-of-the-mill sort of novel, with regular he said, she said dialouges, and straightfoward storytelling, so it's a little odd for me right now {shaking my head in shame}....

So far as I can tell, I like Ruth. She's got that "No one is gonna hold me down" attitude that I like.

message 6: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) *****SPOILERS*****

A couple of thoughts (I'll get into the meat of the discussion at a later date when more people have started to read or have read the book):

Ruth- when she is thinking back her childhood sexual fling, she talks about how she could have ended up as one of JoAnn's anecdotes on teenage pregnancy, disease, etc. (due to not using protection)....she failed to see that she still would have ended up as one of JoAnn's anecdotal quips with 'why buy the cow....'

Pastor Dennis- when the guy is trying to give him the Bible in Best Buy and keeps saying 'the boss told me to give this to you'...I was dying for him to say, 'Springsteen?'

message 7: by Lisa (last edited May 09, 2008 01:19PM) (new)

Lisa I finished the book this morning. The main thing was (without spoilers) the end leaves you hanging and I wish I knew more of the story. I guess it is one of those that you are supposed to draw your own conclusions. It seems to me that this story is like the extreme of two different worlds. The free spirited, almost athiest Ruth and the strict no excuses Christians.

Possible spoilers
At the end it seems like the two extremes are meeting in the middle a little. With the relationship that evolves with Ruth and Tim.

Overall I liked reading a thouroughly modern fiction for once. It is the essence of everything on the minds of lots of people these days.

message 8: by Jen (new)

Jen | 278 comments I'm in as well and on page 50. I am enjoying the book so far and it's flowing well. I'm interested in getting a little further in to see how the morality debate goes.

Regarding the subject matter - I understand why people believe that religion should permeate everything, but I personally hate that. I do not like to see religious "agendas" being pushed on other people in schools, politics, work places, etc. It's one thing to offer a perspective, it's another thing to push an agenda. Teach abstinence in schools? Fine - absolutely. Push abstinence and personal religious values in a public institution? No, thank you.

message 9: by Steven (new)

Steven | 4 comments Having finished I have to agree with L about the ending. I wasn't completely satisfied with where the story closes.

That said I do enjoy the storytelling. The characters are pretty darn believable and the conversations were excellent. Definitely not a book I would have picked up on my own, but I enjoyed it.

message 10: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited May 12, 2008 10:53AM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10095 comments Mod
I think in about as far in as Jen right now...
Ive gotten through her recalling the "summer fling" with her Neighbor... Something just seems off to me about Ruths perspective. I think it may just have to do with the fact that its a man writing it, but it just seems too.. I dont know... not right. Am I the only one who thinks this?

Anyhow, I am going to throw my two cents in, tho i am not very far in the book. I think that sex ed/ health whatever you want to call it, should be teaching BOTH abstinence and Sex in school, so that teens are getting both sides of the coin. Information is Power. Some parents do not have the 'sex talk' and rely on public education to step in and pick up the tab for them. If you teach only abstinence, you are not preparing the young adults properly. Talking about it doesnt mean that you are condoning it. You are simply arming them with all the necessary information to make a decision for themselves when the time comes to, and they will fully understand what the consequences are.

Just my take on it. And I feel very strongly that Religion has no right to force itself into a public school district. Not everyone is a believer or follower of God. This is why we have the option to enroll our children into Private, christian/catholic schools if we so choose. However, on the other side of that, i dont feel it is right to change things like "merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays" in the hopes of not offending everyone... you know what I mean?

message 11: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Lori, I'm not reading this book but I totally agree with your comments on sex ed and religion. We are forever being told that knowledge is power and I hope to arm my family with knowledge one day. As for religion, everyone's different and no one has the right to judge or force it.

message 12: by Kirsty (new)

Kirsty (kirstyreadsandcreates) | 610 comments I still haven't got this book, am waiting for it to come in on order at Waterstones... hopefully will come soon!

message 13: by liz (new)

liz (mancini) I did enjoy the book, the ending was open-ended, that didn't bother me, I like when things are left hanging. But I did think that the relationship between Tim and Ruth was odd- the ease with which they suddenly start being confidantes did not ring true for me.

on a side note, as a high school teacher, I can tell you a few things. One, most your kids are having sex, in some way or another, abstinence education does not work. If kids are going to be abstinate, its because they have gotten those values through church or family. We cannot teach it, nor should we. its unrealistic

message 14: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10095 comments Mod
So I am about 1/2 way thru and not sure still whether i like it or not. The writing reads quickly... I was amazed that i got about 120 pages in yesterday, but im not really invested in either character yet. Ruth seems a little overly-dramatic. (In a small way, she reminds me of me. Gets all worked up over something, but then, the more time that goes by, the less it seemed to matter)

Im at the point where she and Tim met at her house to discuss the game... I get the feeling that these two are going to become friends even tho they stand for two different things.

message 15: by David (new)

David (sfdavide) | 6 comments I tried to get through this book but couldnt. I put it down after a couple of chapters. Whie the story may have been good the writing in my opinion is sophmoric. The dialouge does not seem real and the description of the characters, actions, etc seems almost like bad high school writing. I was getting frustrated. Maybe I am spoiled having just finished "The Whistling Season" and "Another Country". Just my opinion of course.

message 16: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10095 comments Mod
I was having the same issue with the writing in the begining but now that i am farther in, im used to it. The novels i was reading prior to this (Invitation to a Beheading, 20,000 Leagues ect) are complete polar opposites!

One thing about me, tho, i cant give up a book unless it is absolutely atrocious.... and this one isnt quite that bad :D

message 17: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited May 13, 2008 11:39AM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10095 comments Mod
I sat on the couch and didnt move until i finished the book. Thank god it is behind me. That being said:


I did not like much of this novel.
The title is called 'The ABSITNENCE Teacher, so why was so little of the novel focused on the actual teaching?
Why was there such a huge focus on soccer. I dont like reading books that get descriptive about sports (boring for me)
I think its funny how the two main characters are pining for each other almost immediately after meeting one another, even tho the meeting was a bad one!
Typical gay couple are best friends of main character (so overdone!)
The author seemed to just stop writing. I felt there was no conclusion to the story at all.

What I did like:
"Jesus/heaven is like Santa Claus for adults" -- priceless line!
Tim got the hell out of the Tabernacle... that group was giving me the heebie-jeebies.

message 18: by Steven (new)

Steven | 4 comments ** Spoilers **

I didn't think there was much soccer description at all. There's only passing mention to the first game while the Ruth and her ex talk. There's the very descriptive breakaway goal and the very vague discussion of the blowout victory in the rain.
I might just find it that way having read sports books and having played soccer. I could think of a bazillion more details and description that could go into the soccer stuff.

I do agree that the title seems misleading. Much of the focus feels, and the more interesting character in my opinion was Tim. His situation appeared much more compelling to me. His desire to give back to the church that helped him reform his life, but finally realizing that he no longer agrees with the expectations was the most interesting part of the story. Ruth's storyline, which starts so prominently, seems pale in comparison by the ending. She doesn't have any angst about losing the sex ed position. She does have worries about friends moving to Boston and her children choosing to go to church, but that hardly seems related to the teaching.

I do agree that the ending just leaves me cool. I was hoping for more resolution, especially with the church and what happens/doesn't happen after the final soccer game of the year. Does the assistant coach lead a prayer? Does the pastor? How do other parents react? I wish that were brought up in the story.

message 19: by Bree (new)

Bree (coffeebeanbookshelf) I'm avoiding all the spoilers...LOL...scrolling down quickly.

I just picked it up at the library yesterday and am going to start reading it tonight! :) I've heard mixed reviews about the book, but I'm still excited to give it a try!

message 20: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 714 comments I just started yesterday so I'm avoiding spoilers too! I'm about 100 pages in and I'm really enjoying it, so far I like it better than Little Children, the only other Perotta book I've read.

message 21: by Jen (new)

Jen | 278 comments ***Possible Spoilers***

Finished the book. Overall, I really enjoyed it. The flow was good and I did want to continue reading until I was finished. I did feel a little robbed by the ending, though. I was really surprised that he ended it that way. I don't mind when authors leave loose ends allowing the reader to use their imagination, but this didn't seem intentional. It almost seemed accidental. The pastor is sitting outside the house, the soccer coach decides it's the right thing to hide from everyone - including his team of children - and some crazy, brainwashed guy might be taking over the team??? I was disappointed with the lack of closure with the characters.

I enjoyed the book up until the end. Does anyone know if this ending is typical of Perrotta? If it's not typical, I would definitely read another one by him.

message 22: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) ***Possible Spoilers***


I have read all of Perrotta's other works and I have to say that I don't remember any of them being so open-ended....which begs the question, will there be a sequel? He has not written a follow-up to his other books before, but that doesn't mean he couldn't, I suppose. I do know that a movie for this book is in the works. I would definitely recommend checking out some of his other books. You can always start with Election and Little Children, both of which already have movie adaptations.

I do love Tom Perrotta's ability to show multiple sides of a story. A character who could have easily been the antagonist becomes humanized and likable instead.

message 23: by Chloe (new)

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 1128 comments Charity, that's one of the things that I most enjoyed about Perrotta when I read Little Children. He managed to humanize everyone- from Larry, the former cop wracked with guilt, to Ronald, the just-released sex offender. I am kind of amazed at Perrotta's skill at evoking sympathy for characters that you would revile should you meet them in real life.

message 24: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) Exactly! And you know, when I was reading Election, I was amused that the civics teacher, who did some pretty despicable things, was someone I really liked, while the student (Tracy), who was a victim on several levels, was someone I didn't really like at all. Nice spin, Tom!

message 25: by Bree (new)

Bree (coffeebeanbookshelf) I'm about halfway through the book now and am enjoying it so far. The only other book I read by Perotta was Little Children which was a HUGE disappointment to me, so I've been trying to keep my feelings on that book separate while reading this one.

I'm actually suprised at how much I am appalled by the basis of the book - I'm a pretty reserved Christian, I wasn't allowed to participate in sex ed in school, but that was my parents right to pull me from that unit, whereas the church is meddling with things all throughout the community...personally I find that just irritating. I believe that it's up to the PARENTS to teach their kids about abstinence and the schools should be teaching the facts about puberty and sex, because you KNOW that some kids will do it anyway...they should be taught about STDs and protection.

Having said that, lol...I'm only halfway through the book and the main characters - Ruth and Tim have just had their run-in on the soccer field and have met to try to work through it. So the rest of the book could be TOTALLY different. LOL!

message 26: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10095 comments Mod
You and I agree on that front... where the schools should be teaching all aspects of sex (body parts, body functions, disease, pregnancy) and it is up to the parents to enforce that, or push the abstinence thing. Abstience is more a value that is taught through the families lifestyle. Holding back the medical and biogical information is not doing anyone any favors!! Like I said before, the more information the better. Knowlegde is power.

And I also agree that the church has absolutely no right to push its beliefs into schools or into sports. If parents want their children to be a part of that enviorment, or if the children choose to be a part of it themselves, then that is a different story. But pushing religion down someones throat has always been a pet peeve of mine.

I found myself more than once getting angry at different parts of this novel (which i guess is part of the authors plan, no?)

message 27: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) Lori, you hit the nail on the head!

***Possible Spoilers***

Here are my feelings about one of the central themes in the book:

Abstinence education- Totally bogus. It absolutely doesn't work and has no business in a public school system. How do you educate a person about abstinence without pushing an agenda?? There is no real education behind it.

Not only do I support sex education, I think that it should be taught at a younger age. Most parents that seem to have a problem with sex education are so hung up on the 'sex' part (intercourse and other sexual encounters) that they overlook the 'sexuality' part (like Lori stated: body parts, body functions, etc.). I think everyone should at least have knowledge about the inner workings of the human body...both male and female parts.

The source of my frustration with this issue stems from my own lack of sexuality education. I started menstruating at a young age...almost a full year before my school's sex education curriculum began. Typically, a parent will discuss this change with the child before it happens and in turn, the child will tell the parent when it does indeed happen to them. Neither happened with me and my parents. My mother never told me about menstruation and I never told her when I began menstruating. However, she did find out about 2 years later. (Same held true for my younger sister.) Because my mother never talked to me about it, I assumed something was wrong with it/talking about it, so I hid it from her. In fact, I was so ignorant about human sexuality that I didn't even know the proper terms for the human sexual organs until I was about 8. (We were told they were called 'privates' in our we were all a bunch of real-life Barbie and Ken dolls with no body parts and therefore, no names for body parts.)

So yeah, I could have used a little (okay, a lot) of education back then. When my mom found out that I had in fact started menstruating, she gave me a VHS tape sponsored by Tampax and told me to watch it. After it was over, I gave the tape back...she didn't discuss anything further with me or ask if I had any questions. Of course, this was 2 years after I started my period, so it was old news by then. I found it funny in the book that the fundamentalists wanted to ban Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Not only was this a bible for me growing up, it was also the first book that talked so opening about menstruation that I sighed with relief over not being a freak after reading it. :-)

Parents should be the ultimate first source for sex education. They should also be honest when they don't have all the answers and direct their children to a reliable source for back-up. However, if and/or when the parents fail to do this, there should be another source for kids to get the information they need. Which is usually, sex education in schools. And sometimes, that can be a safe haven for kids who don't feel comfortable asking their parents specific questions or fear getting into trouble if they do ask their parents questions about sex.

Furthermore, the more forbidden the action, the greater likelihood of the action taking place. Abstinence education doesn't work because kids want answers, not more of the same 'don't do it' propaganda spouted by elders. If they don't get the information and answers they need, they are going to go out and find them firsthand. If parents want to teach abstinence, that is perfectly fine. Just make sure to give the kids the facts, then state your preference for abstaining and the reasons behind it. Don't expect kids go through life with blinders on. They can't and they won't. If they have the knowledge, they can make a much more informed decision. Like Lori said, knowledge is power!

message 28: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) Sorry for the long post. Don't fall asleep reading it. :-)

message 29: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) ***Possible Spoilers***

As for the other central theme in the book, community prayer, my feelings boil down to this:

The U.S. was founded on principles that include both freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. So, if someone wants to pray to their god, they are free to do so. However, since the incident in the book involves a community event (youth soccer game) where the coach organizes a prayer with the team after the game, that is a violation of the separation between church and state.

There were kids of different religious backgrounds (and some with no religious background) on the team who probably felt uncomfortable with the prayer, but might have stayed so as not to feel excluded from the team. When a person of authority, especially someone a kid likes and respects, does something to make them uncomfortable, a kid might have a hard time standing up for themselves or walking away. The kid doesn't want to risk upsetting the authority figure or getting in trouble themselves.

As a parent, I would expect that when I enroll my child to play on a community youth sports team, the coach(s) would be there to teach the fundamentals of that sport, not to indoctrinate my child into their brand of religion.

message 30: by Kirsty (new)

Kirsty (kirstyreadsandcreates) | 610 comments I'm reading this thread but avoiding the spoliers too! I'm currently 50 pages in, and am willing myself to keep going (i have an OCD obsession that doesn't allow me to leave a book unfinished!!). I'm not particularly enjoying it at the moment... hoping it'll get better... please someone tell me it does! I'm not liking his writing style at all.

message 31: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10095 comments Mod
Kirsty, I struggled with the writing of it as well. It seemed a little amatuerish to me, and wasnt grabbing hold of me the way most novels do. That said, I dont usually read these types of novels, and once I decided to keep going, i noticed that you get used to the writing and just sort of follow the characters.
Keep going. While it wasnt the best novel I have read, by far, it definetly should get you thinking about a few issues. Where you stand as far as preaching your religion outside of the church, teaching sex ed or abstinence in schools, whether religion should start interferring with the public school systems....

message 32: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) BTW- this doesn't really have anything to do with The Abstinence Teacher, but I thought I would mention it since it involves people getting all worked up about human sexuality.

Have you heard the controversy about The Higher Power of Lucky (2007 Winner of the Newbery Medal)? Apparently a lot of parents and school administrators are all worked up over the word scrotum on the first page. How ridiculous! That is the proper term for that area of the male genitalia. I cannot believe people are censoring and banning books that use proper medical terminology!! Just crazy.

I'd just like to know what term the parents are teaching their kids to use for that body part!

message 33: by Kirsty (new)

Kirsty (kirstyreadsandcreates) | 610 comments I'm now 180 pages in (so still avoiding the spoliers) and am still not particularly enjoying it. I'm so disappointed because this book sounded really interesting - I even voted for it!

I'll admit that it is stirring up points of view, which I'll discuss when I finish the book (its possible - though doubtful - that my POV may change if the book puts up enough of an argument!), but it's definitely not going to get more than 3 stars from me so far, possibly even 2 stars.

message 34: by Mona (new)

Mona | 52 comments I am on page 124 and it's pretty good... it's moving a little slow, but I am figuring it will pick up pretty soon. I loved Little Children so I am hoping I will like this one too. My hope is to finish it this week.

message 35: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 714 comments I have made multiple attempts at posting since I finished the book Tuesday but I always seem to get interrupted!

I really liked this one, the story totally sucked me in and didn't want to stop reading it.


In the end when Tim is writing the email to the team he calls Abby by her nickname "Abba" (incidentially, I found his nicknames for the players so freakin annoying!! Especially Nomad and Hangman-dumb!) Anyway, I was wondering if "Abba" was also being used in the biblical sense where it means father. I think he says "Abba, I love you more than you'll ever know" or something to that effect. Made me wonder.

I was torn about the end and having Tim and Ruth end up together (well, possibly I guess.) In some ways I wanted it to end that way but in others it was too neat for my taste.

I can't tell you how sick what's her name made me (I honestly have forgotten, Joanne? The abstinence consultant?) When Ruth has to go to the Saturday refresher what's her name says that she's not there to judge but then when the woman tells the story about sleeping with her friend's fiance she says "yuck." I was really disappointed that Perotta didn't have Ruth or another character really call her out but maybe that's supposed to speak to Ruth just being so fried by the whole thing.

I already returned the book to the library and I'm having trouble remembering some names now-was Paul the neighbors name? I was totally skeeved by Ruth's date with him and how gross he was when he tells her that she doesn't have to have sex with him, she can just blow him if she wants-what a sport!

I was amazed by how easily swayed Ruth's daughters were and that they both "wanted to know Jesus." It freaked me out and made me think about what I'd do if my son came home with the same request. I guess I'd do what Ruth did and let him explore it but I'd go with him and not just let him go with some other family. I'd want to know what he was hearing at the service so I could talk to him about it later.

This post has already gone on way too long but I agree with the earlier comments about abstinence education (lame) and prayer in secular institutions. It does really scare me to think that one religious group could become so vocal and powerful that everyone would bow to their will. Ugh!

message 36: by Kirsty (new)

Kirsty (kirstyreadsandcreates) | 610 comments ***POSSIBLE SPOILERS***

OK so I finished the book, and it got 2 stars from me. There wasn't much I liked about it at all... it only got 2 stars because it made me think about my point of view on the subjects involved.

I didn't like the writing, I agree with the earlier post that it was sophmoric... and the characters were very shallow and a lot about them was unbelievable. I also didn't like the loose ends, and please don't get me started on how weak the ending was.

As for my points of view, I strongly believe that sex education should be well rounded and unbiased. My mum was very open with me from the age of around 10 or 11, and I'm really thankful for that. I think sex ed should teach children about the dangers, but I also think it should teach about how wonderful sex can be... whether in a relationship or not. Of course its fantastic in a loving relationship, and its on a completely different level, but we can't kid ourselves that people won't have casual sex, and I don't believe that casual sex is always a bad thing, as long as the precautions are taken. We should be talking to the children like adults about an adult subject. This is my view on it anyway.

As far as religion goes, I'm not a particularly religious person, however I don't believe that people should be trying to force their religion onto others. I think that discussing it with others is great, and can really open people's eyes and help understanding between races/religions, but I also believe that people should be free to choose without feeling pressured.

message 37: by Liz (new)

Liz (hissheep) I too agree with Steven and L - the book moved along quite fast and with much enjoyment, and I had a few scenarios going on in my head about how it would end - quite disappointing! Maybe there will be a sequel?

message 38: by Steven (new)

Steven | 4 comments I was thinking. Maybe we should do 2 threads per book. One for discussion after the finish and one for discussion before finishing? Then we wouldn't have to keep adding the spoilers tag.

Anyway *sort of spoilers*

Thinking back I get the feeling that Perrotta was trying to get two characters with somewhat parallel situations.

Both Ruth and Tim were previously in groups/situations that they really enjoyed (sex-ed teacher/church) then they're asked to do something that they are uncomfortable doing (new curriculum/prayer requirement with sports) and both end up leaving their previously happy situation for a new situation (teaching math/leaving? the church).

I assume Perrotta was trying to present show similarities between two characters that start in polar opposite situations, and finally bring them together to a middle ground following very similar paths. It feels like he did a decent job of presenting that sort of story, but the ending is just too abrupt to really realize the almost parallel paths the characters take.

The thing that really gets me about the religion issue was how the only two perspectives of religion presented are somewhat extreme positions. Ruth's complete dislike and avoidance of church and Tim's starting position of a very conservative and fundamentalist position. The characters that might have had a more middle ground position about religion as part of modern living (Tim's mother, ex-wife and family, other teachers at the school) are never approached by either character for opinions.

As someone who is fairly active in a church, I have to wonder if that's the normal case. Do most people see religion as either being something you take part in and really believe or don't take part in and avoid? If that is the case than it makes me feel that more middle of the road beliefs and churches are doing a poor job of presenting their position about religion.

back to top