The Abstinence Teacher
Tom Perrotta excels at telling stories about ordinary people in extraordinary ways. In his last novel, Little Children, he managed to make a sex offender, if not likeable, at least human. The Abstinence Teacher is also a morality tale. Ruth Ramsey, veteran sex-ed teacher, suggested to her high-school class that some people might find oral sex pleasurable. Now the divorced mother is teaching abstinence under the watchful eye of administrators and a “morality enforcer” from the local evangelical church. Forget your assumptions about liberal intellectuals and evangelical Christians. Perrotta’s gift for cutting through denial makes this an intriguing novel about struggling against our desires—natural, destructive, instinctual or merely foolish. Abstinence, thy name is longing.