About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    Review: “The Abstinence Teacher” by Tom Perrotta

    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” 

    Topics: Books, Politics, Religion | No Comments »