Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Abstinence Teacher

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. Great title. Book jacket drew me instantly. I borrowed this one on 9 CDs from the library. And wow, it really started out great.

Ruth is a sex ed teacher who doesn't hold back her views that sex is OK. Unfortunately this is constantly getting her in trouble with the principal and The Tabernacle down the street. Her daughter is on a soccer team that is coached by Tim, a member of the evangelical Christian church. When they win an important game, Tim encourages the girls to kneel down and pray with him. Ruth goes completely ballistic, stops the prayer session and later tries to get Tim fired from the team. Tim is a very likable yet extremely flawed character. He is a former stoner guitar player who turned to Jesus to save his own life. The preacher of the church more or less convinces Tim to marry another member of the Tabernacle, and Tim does so, but is now filled with doubt and regret. The first half of the book is spent setting up the characters and explaining the lives of both Tim's and Ruth's exes. The sexual tension is high and I was eager to find out where all this would end up. But a little more than halfway through, I was not nearly as interested in what was happening as I started out. The plot almost started to fall apart. When Ruth's children decide they would like to learn more about religion and attend church with some friends, her attitude bordered on irrational and I completely turned against her. She was a mess. Tim on the other hand got more interesting as he began to stray from his faith. The two had an obvious attraction, but I didn't want to see them together. The end also left quite a few loose ends, but I didn't continue to think of the possible outcomes after I was finished listening to the last CD. I don't normally love books with big bows around the ending, because it gives me a chance to formulate my own opinions, but I guess when it came to the end of this one, I didn't much care.

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