Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Abstinence Teacher - Tom Perrotta
“Pleasure is Good, Shame is Bad and Knowledge is Power.”
This is the credo of Ruth Ramsey, the high school Sex Ed teacher for the town of Stonewood Heights and one of the protagonists in Perrotta's The Abstinence Teacher.
Underestimating the recent surge in popularity and influence of a small evangelical church, Ruth makes the mistake of telling her students, “Well, from what I hear about oral sex, some people enjoy it.”
With those fateful words, Ruth (a divorced mother of two) becomes the perfect target for the fundamentalist forces of the right. A crusade is underway to cleanse the town of “…all manner of godlessness and moral decay” and Ruth stepped right in its path. She is now forced to teach the revamped Sex Ed curriculum which promotes abstinence.
On the other side of the spectrum is Tim Mason – also a divorced parent and a member of that evangelical church. Tim is “…a former stoner and rocker whose response to hitting rock bottom was to reach out and be saved.”
The fundamentalist right clashes with the liberal left. Depending upon your point of view, you may have issues with these characters’ beliefs and actions but Perrotta presents them both as sympathetic and believable. Each is struggling with children, ex-spouses, loneliness and a desire to connect.
Ultimately, the two discover they have far more in common than not. Hearts and humanity trump religious and political leanings.
Sounds like an easy read? A bit like a soap opera? Only deceptively so. The setting is your typical suburban neighbourhood but Perrotta takes the story beyond that setting as he raises questions and tackles important issues – all without preaching. He forces you to think, to see the issues from both sides. A good read.
My point of view? I wonder how supposed experts can preach abstinence as a fool-proof method of birth control. Back-up is a must. A naïve belief that your child need only be taught that abstinence is the best and only path to take is no match for the message our kids receive from the media, raging hormones and peer pressure.
I do not have pneumonia or pleurisy. I have bronchitis. Thanks to our speedy health care system, I find this out 5 days after the chest x-ray was done. And the requisition form for the x-ray had STAT written on it as to results.
I’m not sure why I find this to be good news. I still feel crummy. Maybe it’s the heavy–duty drugs? And don’t you cough with bronchitis? I’m not.
I am so looking forward to feeling “normal” again. (Or what passes for normal in my world.)