Thoughts On: The Abstinence Teacher

Richard Russo lite.

'The Abstinence Teacher' is the first book I've read by Tom Perotta. I know some of his work via the movies-- i.e., Little Children, Election--and, together with this work, it's pretty clear that Perotta is kind of a "Richard Russo-in-the-suburbs." He doesn't have Russo's wry wit, and his protagonists are younger, but he shares a similar outlook, and a similar cast of fallible folks.
The book is slight, its characterizations a little on the sketchy side. The first of its two lead characters is a fortyish divorcee with a gay best friend. Sit-com much?

The second lead character is a "born again" Christian from a small, fundamentalist church. But Perotta is cheating.  His second lead has a hipster past: drugs and rock and roll and a hot ex-wife.  One suspects Perotta could not write or did not care to write or found it problematic to write a true, dyed in the wool born-again.

The story drops these two people into unwilling apposition and then sympathizes with both.  Since Perotta's material has made for successful adaptations (at least critically), I'm sure this one will make it to celluloid soon.