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The Abstinence Teacher Paperback – 5 Feb 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (5 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007261012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007261017
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 417,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Highly entertaining…At heart, this very funny, very engaging novel poses a question that seems all too pertinent in our Manichean times – why are we afraid of doubts and the mess that is human existence? And why, oh why, does there have to be a goddam answer to everything?' The Times

'An expectedly serious, fair-minded and humane look at a lonely woman and a searching man. It is surprising and unusually loving towards its characters. Perrotta is especially good on that thorniest of questions, why Americans are so drawn to evangelical Christianity.' Patrick Ness, Guardian

‘Told with wisdom, wit and warmth.’ Daily Mail

‘This understated, relevant read from the champion of states-side suburbia brings fresh insight into the battle between the two greatest forces in contemporary America.’ Observer

About the Author

Tom Perrotta is the author of several works of fiction, including ‘Little Children’, ‘Joe College’ and ‘Election’. He lives outside Boston, Massachusetts.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Anne McHardy on 21 Feb 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tom Perotta manages to get across the fear and frustration felt by people with liberal values living in modern America in the face of an evangelical onslaught on their community; while portaying the central religious character as a likeable human being - no mean feat.

I couldn't put 'The Abstinence Teacher' down. It's written with a light touch which in no way detracts from the seriousness of the subject. This is the first of Tom Perotta's books I have read. It certainly wont be the last.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mrpevensie on 10 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
Tom Perrotta explores a very interesting and relevant subject in this book. This is not simply a novel about sex education and the different attitudes towards it, but about the power of the Christian Right in America.

In an interview the author said that he was alarmed by the strength of the evangelical vote in the election of George W Bush, and the influence that this secular group of people has over politics in America.

Tom Perrotta has localised the Christian Right in the form of "The Tabernacle", a small church in the town of Stonewood Heights who gather their forces in an attack against a forward thinking sexual health teacher and the liberal ideology as a whole.

Perrotta also spoke of feeling a little embarrassed by his "not really knowing this Christian force that is so dominant in his home country. As a result of this, rather admiringly, the author does not simply point the finger at the extremist Christians in his book, rather, he employs time effectively, providing the reader with in depth anecdotes and analysis of the character's past, showing what may have led them to this way of thinking and how easily it is for people to be swept up by religious rhetoric.

As the book deals with a rather heavy, controversial subject matter, it is a relief that Perrotta balances it out with good humour. I found myself laughing out loud at some points in the book and appreciated how every time I picked it back up I could slip right back in to the story. It is a very easy read. I enjoyed most of the characters in this book, especially the female protagonist, and even enjoyed the more annoying characters such as JoAnn Marlow, whom I loved to hate.

I can't think of any real qualms I had with this title, but a book really has to knock the air from my lungs to get five stars.

Overall, I found this book to be pleasurable, funny and thought-provoking.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Susan L. Haldemann on 8 Jan 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. I could not put it down. I enjoyed his other book little children, but this was even better. I just moved from America back to Europe and this book did for me encapsulate the struggle americans have with the religous right, yet with beliveable and sympathethetic characters. As an Athesist and mother, like the central character is also the booked echoed many of the themes I struggled with while living in America, the assumption that if your not christian your ammoral. The book was thought provoking with a great story, even funny in parts,
I can't recomend this book enough, I hope you enjoy it as much as me!
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Format: Paperback
I did enjoy reading this book and there were a lot of controversial subjects that were discussed in passing that lead to some good book club discussions. However, I felt that the book lacked a bit of "adultness" and the soccer scenes were not necessary and too detailed for a book like this. I also was not found of the authors responses about the end of the book. His comments made me feel like he really didn't put too much effort into it so I was a little frustrated with having made the effort to purchase and read his book.

In general, I wouldn't recommend the book unless you are reading it for a book club or someone gives it to you to read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Divorced mother-of-two Ruth Ramsay teaches sex education in High School. The Christian right moves into her community and she now has to teach abstinence, which she can't. Eventually she is moved to remedial maths but that is not the story. At the same time her daughters become interested in Jesus, which she struggles with, but that is not the story. She is lonely and looking for a man - that's the story. Divorced father-of-one Tim Mason is a reformed alcoholic and born-again Christian. His daughter is put off by his new religion and their brief encounters are becoming frosty. He is also lonely. Much of the book is about girls soccer - Tim coaches a team of 10 year olds including his own and Ruth's daughters. Tim brings his religion to the team by calling for a prayer circle after a game, which brings him into conflict and contact with Ruth. The author explores fundamental Christianity quite well. He does demonstrate that it can help change lives (such as Tim's) but is also narrow and intolerant of human failings and foibles and sexually way off. There are no real baddies here - Perrotta sees modern Americans as lonely and looking for love. It's a good contrast with Coupland who says much the same but lacks Perrotta's warmth and is not such a good storyteller.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
On the one hand, I'd salute Perrotta for his efforts to think through the issues surrounding the religious right in America, and particularly the issues surrounding sex education, abstinence only, etc.

However, all these good points were more than outweighed by the irritation that the book provoked. The characters are all pretty one-dimensional - even the slightly deeper main characters reacted in ways which seemed over the top and ridiculous at times.

Tim Mason was probably the most believable character, as an ex-addict and new believer, but even then some of the decisions he made I found pretty hard to swallow: for instance, marrying someone because his pastor thought it was a good idea. The idea of a pastor peddling marriage between two people who barely know each other made me side-eye the character, but that anyone would take that advice stretched credibility to breaking point.

Ruth Ramsey is, again, mostly believable, but some of her reactions seem extreme, in particular her flipping out when Coach Tim makes the (admittedly ill-advised) choice to pray with his team after a successful football game.

The other characters seem to be very thin indeed, not one of them felt real to me. The representatives for abstinence education were flimsy stereotypes. As such it felt like a flippant dismissal of the subject, not a well-thought-out debate.

In addition to the annoyance from the characters, the plot itself just got very boring. There's a fine line between "realistic snapshot of life" and "dull" - sadly, for me this book was simply dull.

It's a shame, as Perrotta has some good points to make, and to his credit the viewpoint isn't completely one-sided.
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