The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta



Some recipes just don’t work out….  **


Tom Perrotta is one of a few authors writing Suburban Noir. Better known for his book, Little Children, his writing has been described as “exposing the quiet desperation behind America’s suburban sheen.”  In The Abstinence Teacher, he fails to expose anything except lazy writing.

In this book Perrotta has taken a teaspoon each of sex education, gay marriage,, addiction, and fundamentalist Christianity (represented by the Promise Keepers), tossed them in a blender with a cup of cliches, poured them in a pan and under cooked the batch.

The novel starts out with a strong female character, Ruth, who teaches sex education. By the end of the book she is no longer strong nor interesting. Forced to teach abstinence instead of the truth, she gives in too easily, considering how determined she is in the beginning. The conflict with her and the other characters flounders and becomes boring.

Tim Mason is her “nemesis”, but again the drama between him and everyone else is lacking, and he deteriorates into a stereotype of an addict finding Jesus.

This is a story that could have been riveting, controversial, and informative had Perrotta been on his game. Unfortunately, it is a recipe that needs some spice.

This one gets two stars.