rating: 4 of 5 stars
At last! A novel that makes me want to seek out other novels by this same author! A novel that doesn't have me wondering--in the last 25, or 50, or 100 pages--why it won't just end already. A novel that keeps me up past midnight, complete with drooping eyelids and that foreboding "you'll be sorry tomorrow morning" feeling. And, perhaps most importantly for a book titled "The Abstinence Teacher," a novel with a balanced viewpoint.
After I had read the first two "sections" of the novel, each written from the point of view of one of the book's two main characters Ruth and Tim, I was completely confused. It's not that this was a confusing book and I didn't know what was going on, but I didn't know how to feel about what was going on. The Christians who were causing Ruth to lose her job didn't seem 100% fabulous from Tim's point of view, even though they had saved him from his destructive life, but they didn't sem 100% evil and crazy from Ruth's perspective, either, in spite of the lawsuit being brought against her for insinuating that masturbation is a common practice. Somehow, Perrotta actually had me rooting for both characters--and I was okay with that!
What I fear is that caused me to love this book so much was the degree to which I related to its characters. No, I am not a forty-year-old Sex Ed. teacher or a Born-again ex-junkie; I have never been divorced, nor have I been remarried, and I do not have any teenaged children, as Ruth and Tim do. However, when it comes to physical intimacy, I have been living on the equivalent of a tundra, so I know what it's like to feel sexually frustrated. I know what it's like to self-judge and criticize your ow reactions when you are feeling the way Ruth feels about wanting but not finding A Man. I also know quite well what it is like to go through religious conversion and back again, to feel conviction and doubt grapple with one another. These are the struggles I latched onto in The Abstinence Teacher, what made his characters seem so true and sympathetic.
Furthermore, the writing was simply efficient. It wasn't notably beautiful, but it wasn't meant to be. Perrotta told the story with as little excessive floweriness as possible. And of course, I will always be in awe of a perfectly executed ending, which he somehow managed against all odds.
These are the reasons I am returning straightaway to the library to check out another book by Perrotta. I hope I will not be disappointed.
View all my reviews.