Books by State: New Jersey

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

“Stonewood Heights is the perfect place to raise children: it’s got good schools, solid values and a healthy real estate market. Parents in the town are involved in their children’s lives, and often in other children’s lives, too―coaching sports, driving carpool, focusing on enriching experiences. Ruth Ramsey is the high school human sexuality teacher whose openness is not appreciated by all her students―or their parents. Her daughter’s soccer coach is Tim Mason, a former stoner and rocker whose response to hitting rock bottom was to reach out and be saved. Tim’s introduction of Christianity on the playing field horrifies Ruth, while his evangelical church sees a useful target in the loose-lipped sex ed teacher. But when these two adversaries in a small-town culture war actually talk to each other, a surprising friendship begins to develop.” –Amazon’s summary.

This was an almost frustratingly true to life story. The religious bigotry and utter dismay at the thought of teenagers learning helpful information about safe sex instead of fear-mongering and trying to for them into abstinence. Growing up in a small town with conservative family members, it was all annoyingly familiar. But that means the author did it right!

Tom’s struggle to stay on the right path and stick with his faith is certainly heart-wrenching. It’s obvious how hard it all is for him, though I can’t help but feel like a lot of the anxieties were made worse because of the intensity of the church he found himself in. It was suffocating him. His personal beliefs and morals hardly ever align with the Pastor and his congregation, but he is afraid to admit it because he feels like he has no other place he can turn to. He’s terrified of being left to his own devices again.

I was more in tune with Ruth however. I wish I could say I’m as dedicated and passionate about my beliefs as she is. What I can say with absolute certainty is that Ruth’s weakness is mine as well: loneliness.

The two of them together are no perfect, fairy tale couple. They’re first meeting was incredibly shaky, and the following meetings were confusing at best – for the both of them. This certainly isn’t a love story, it’s much more raw than that. It’s broken finding broken. It’s life.

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