Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

I really like Tom Perrotta and have read much of his work. What I can't figure out is why I like his work so much. I wouldn't call him a great 'writer' like you'd say of Fitzgerald or Salinger. He doesn't write sweeping epics like Michael Chabon or even Khaled Hosseini. He's not the polymath type like Updike who can write about anything or like Mailer who becomes consumed by his current subject or like Roth who mines one vein over and over (many would disagree with me here. Get your own damn blog). What Perrotta has been able to do, consistently, is tell a good story about seemingly normal people living their normal, everyday lives. Sadly, with The Abstinence Teacher, he falls far short. The premise is promising--what happens when a local church becomes so vocal as to cause a public high school to radically change their curriculum to forego a sizable lawsuit and the subsequent aftermath to those involved. In this era of political correctness and the prevalent 'I'm a victim' mentality of our times (when will this era end?), it is certainly ripe and has all the makings of an engaging and complex story. However, it just doesn't work.

Why would Ruth, a smart woman and a potentially interesting character, fall for the hapless, born again soccer coach? He's so lame I want to punch him in the face repeatedly with a roll of quarters in my chubby little fist and I'm really not that prone to violence.

What is the point of the gay marriage sub-plot--to show there is only happiness where there is tolerance? Kind of obvious and kind of weak.

Why do Ruth's daughters suddenly and fervently embrace religion? A plot device.

Why does the ending suck so bad? I don't know but I was almost angry when I read the last few pages and saw this would be how it ended.

Sorry, Mr. Perrotta. While I look forward to your next work,
The Abstinence Teacher is not worthy of the considerable abilities you have shown in other novels. No hard feelings.


Linda said...

Hi Reed,

Isn't it a bummer when an author you love to read comes out with a "klunker." I hate when that happens!

I wanted to share a novel with you that I just finished with a similar theme of sex education(unusual to find in a novel) -- along with several other plots including student free press issues, and a journalist's dilemma while covering a controversial story. It's The Sex Ed Chronicles by a new author, Stuart Nachbar. Hope you'll find it as enjoyable and thought-provoking as I did.

Love your profile photo btw;-)

Happy Holidays & Happy Reading,

Fussy Sock Washer said...

Unrelated to this post, but have you read Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon yet? Seems like it would be up your alley.

If you have read it, I'd love to borrow it...

Fussy said...

It's 2008 and I don't know what to Read Next! Please post some new suggestions soon or I'll have to switch allegiances to Oprah. And I'm enough of a suburban douchebag as it is.