By Kyle | October 22, 2007
Kyle Smith review of “The Abstinence Teacher” by Tom Perrotta
“I want to know Jesus,” a little girl tells her mother. “Oh, come on,” replies the mom. “Not you too.”
Another hilarious but soul-searching comedy from Perrotta (“Little Children,” “Election,” both of which were made into acclaimed movies) presents an America that is less a mosaic of red and white states than a messy purple stew. Ruth Ramsey, a lonely divorcee and mother of two girls, is forced to add abstinence lessons to the freewheeling sex-ed classes she teaches in a suburban school thanks to the influence of a local religious movement personified by Tim Mason, an evangelical Christian with a sinner’s guilt–he’s an ex-stoner guitarist, now married to a blank bore. When Tim, who is also a coach of Ruth’s daughter’s soccer team, leads the girls in a postgame prayer, Ruth complains that religion has no more place between the goalposts than it does in public school. But she also thinks Tim is kind of hot.
Perrotta has a gift for balance, finding what’s human and decent and even lovable in those who don’t much like themselves, and his ability to give equal time to both sides of a familiar but important quarrel without ever losing sight of the humor involved makes his latest ideal for book-group discussion as well as great fodder for a movie–which is due to be filmed by the folks who made “Little Miss Sunshine.”
See also: Sara’s review of “The Abstinence Teacher”