The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

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Synopsis

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, shame is bad, and knowledge is power." Ruth's younger daughter's soccer coach is Tim Mason, a former stoner and rocker whose response to hitting rock bottom was to reach out and be saved. Tim belongs to The Tabernacle, an evangelical Christian church that doesn't approve of Ruth's style of teaching. And Ruth in turn doesn't applaud The Tabernacle's mission to take its message outside its doors. Adversaries in a small-town culture war, Ruth and Tim instinctively mistrust each other. But when a controversy on the soccer field pushes the two of them to actually talk to each other, they are forced to take each other at something other than face value.


The Abstinence Teacher exposes the powerful emotions that run beneath the surface of modern American family life and explores the complex spiritual and sexual lives of ordinary people. Elegantly written, it is characterized by the distinctive mix of satire and compassion that have animated Perrotta's previous novels.

 

About Tom Perrotta

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TOM PERROTTA is the author of eight books, most recently The Leftovers.  Two of his novels—Election and Little Children—have been made into acclaimed and award-winning movies.  Perrotta grew up in New Jersey and now lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
 
Published October 16, 2007 by St. Martin's Press. 370 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Abstinence Teacher

Kirkus Reviews

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Perrotta makes gentle fun of Carrie dutifully leafing through a copy of Hot Christian Sex: The Godly Way to Spice Up Your Marriage, but also of Ruth’s gay pal Gregory making elaborate dioramas of Parisian cafes featuring French Resistance Fighter GI Joes clad in black turtlenecks and berets.

Oct 01 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

The New York Times

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Books: A Writer’s Search for the Sex in Abstinence (October 14, 2007) Tom Perrotta reads an excerpt from his new novel, "The Abstinence Teacher" (This audio recording contains some frank sexual language) Listen to the audio clip First Chapter (St. Martin's Press) This, of co...

Oct 16 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

The New York Times

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“She must have kept it hidden in a drawer or under a mattress,” she reflects — just as she herself once hid books like “The Godfather” and “The Happy Hooker.” But the book Eliza has been keeping under wraps is not a pulp fiction fable of vice and libertinage: it’s the Bible.

Oct 21 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

The New York Times

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Tom Perrotta sets his cast of flawed parents and un-airbrushed kids against the stained-glass background of muscular Christianity on the march.

Oct 21 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

The Guardian

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The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop This understated, relevant read from the champion of stateside...

Mar 08 2009 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

The Guardian

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The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta 358pp, Fourth Estate, £12.99 Tom Perrotta is best known for skewering American middle-class suburbia, mainly on the strength of two films made from his books - the uneven Little Children and the brilliant Election.

Jan 26 2008 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

Book Reporter

When Ruth comments, in a classroom discussion of oral sex, that “some people enjoy it,” pressure from a fundamentalist church, the Tabernacle of the Gospel Truth, leads the school board to adopt an abstinence education program called “Wise Choices for Teens.” Overseen by a “Virginity Consultant” ...

Jan 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

AV Club

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After making a name for himself on the strength of deftly comic studies of perpetual adolescence like The Wishbones, Bad Haircut, and Joe College, Tom Perrotta took a leap forward in ambition with Little Children, a novel that confronted suburban malaise more directly than ever before.

Nov 08 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

Entertainment Weekly

B Originally posted Nov 27, 2007 Published in issue #966-967 Nov 30, 2007 Order article reprints

Nov 23 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

Entertainment Weekly

She had become ''a beloved figure — or so she liked to think — or the unflappable, matter-of-fact candor with which she discussed the most sensitive of subjects.'' Then, one momentous day she issues breaking news on oral sex: ''Some people enjoy it.'' Ruth thus draws the ire of born-again Chr...

Oct 15 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

All About Romance

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But the pastor over-steps his bounds on this and he and Tim are thrown into increasing conflict over this issue, particularly since Tim's ex-wife is willing to go to court to clamp down on this religion being any part of her daughter's life.

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USA Today

Fifty years after John Cheever turned a comic eye toward New England's Wapshot clan, Tom Perrotta reigns as a mischievous bard of the 'burbs for the 21st century.In novels such as Election and Little Children, Perrotta has prowled high school halls, local malls and the marital (and extramarital) ...

Oct 25 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

Pajiba

Or why did your new Christian, Tim, have so little knowledge of what it actually means to be a Christian, even though he ostensibly attended a very conservative church?

Dec 16 2008 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

PopMatters

Ruth—who “used to joke, in simpler times, that the entire ninth grade Sex Ed curriculum could be reduced to three words: “Condoms, Condoms, Condoms!”—is in trouble with the school board after a casual comment in class about oral sex: “Some people like it.” A student’s parents, members of The Tabe...

Nov 09 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

About.com Bestsellers

Their worlds collide, and Perrotta has a few moments of genuine understanding, but it all feels a little too expected and a bit maudlin.ProsPerrotta has an ear for authentic post modern dialogue between adultsThere is a knowing humor that both humanists and Christians will be able to smile atThe ...

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Bookmarks Magazine

According to most critics, Tom Perrotta, author of Election (1998) and Little Children ( 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2004), successfully draws his characters out of the trenches in The Abstinence Teacher, but he makes no progress toward redrawing the battle lines between the evangelists and the liber...

Dec 03 2007 | Read Full Review of The Abstinence Teacher

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Michael Manley 20 Aug 2013

Rated the book as 4.5 out of 5

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