Sunday, June 01, 2008

Its not that I didn't like The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta but it wasn't nearly as good as Election or Little Children. Basically the story of suburban northeast town struggling with the typcial evangelical versus secular battle that seems to have swept through American schools. Ruth is a sex education teacher, divorced single mom, forced to teach an abstinence only health course after a casual comment to her class brings down the wrath of the congregation of the Tabernacle, the local evangelical church. The other side of the book follows born again former rock musician/addict turned kids soccer coach Tim. The two main characters Ruth and Tim find themselves embroiled in conflict over the appropriateness of prayer at a town sponsored soccer match. The characters are often funny and open, fairly well developed and Perrotta doesn't give any pat answers to try and solve the religious struggles of modern American society, I appreciated all these things about the book but it just felt a bit cliched and forced in some places. I liked it, enjoyed reading it and would recommend it but something was missing. Some of the religious aspects of the book seemed very judgmental, with school scenes that were hollow and rather inaccurate. It just felt rather shallow, with Tim the most complex of the characters, likeable, conflicted and earnest. On the whole it lacked the insights of Little Children or the dark humor of Election. Read those two first and then maybe pick up The Abstinence Teacher.

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