The Abstinence Teacher is about families and their lives and struggles in modern day America.
This novel covers a huge scope ranging from what’s right and wrong, what you believe in and what you don’t, and what your religion means to you and how far you might go to defend it. We visit what it is to be a single parent, how divorce can affect a family, and how addiction can rule your life even in recovery.
The characters in this novel draw you into their lives, some more than others. For me, I really liked Ruth who is a high school Sex Ed teacher struggling with teaching a new program of abstinence to her students. It’s made difficult for her because you can’t properly teach what you don’t believe in. For Ruth, she believes in being as honest and truthful with her students as she can-to make sure they’re prepared for the real world. Her issues in class start because of students that belong to a new church group in the area bringing up concerns with her teaching style. She’s then forced into this new curriculum and she’s angry. Then we’ve got Tim, a man who used to be into drugs and alcohol but who has turned his life over to God to be saved. He is also one of the soccer coaches for Ruth’s young daughter Maggie. Tim’s character is very likeable because the author takes you through the struggles Tim had to get to where he is and how now God helps him hold it together even though Tim is beginning to question his faith a bit-he’s a very real character.
The event that sets things off is when Tim brings prayer to the playing field. After a game when his daughter is hurt and Tim is just grateful she’s ok, he’s overwhelmed and starts to pray with the girls. Ruth, not believing in God, is extremely horrified and angry. She tells him he has no right to do that with her daughter and proceeds to try to get Tim removed from the team. However, they meet to talk and somehow a spark of friendship begins to grow between them.
I did enjoy this book and it kept my interest. For fans of Tom Perrotta I’m sure they’ll love it. It’s a good, easy read. It touches on a lot of touchy subjects and I did appreciate the way the author handles this.