Quickly into this book on tape I thought, “Shoot. This is going to be one of those anti-Christian novels that uses a broad brush to paint all Christians as insane fundamentalists who are mean and holier-than-thou.” I’m so glad it wasn’t.
The Abstinence Teacher is about Ruth, divorced mother of two and the sex education teacher in a small-town suburbia, and Tim, her daughter’s soccer coach and member of a fundamentalist church that is gaining a strong hold on the town’s politics and education. Ruth is reprimanded and later dismissed as the sex ed teacher for not following to the letter a curriculum that she believes provides false information in its quest to offer abstinence as the only solution for avoiding teenage pregnancy and STDs.
To complicate her relationship with this church who has been able to influence her professional life significantly, her daughters are interested in reading the bible and exploring faith by going to church with a friend. Specifically at the core of the conflict is her youngest daughter who is on Tim’s soccer team and who easily transfers the respect she has for him as her coach to the religion he embraces.
This culture conflict is worked out as Ruth and Tim both realize they don’t fit the mold of others’ expectations. Where both characters end up is much more like real life than where they start from, which means everything is not tied up with a pretty little bow. There are many unanswered questions, but not in a frustrating way.
This is the first of Perrotta’s I’ve read, and given how well he handled this one, I’ll look for more.
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