As formulaic as this plot might sound, Mr. Perrotta uses it not to construct a conventional screwball romance but to create a sad-funny-touching story that looks at the frustrations and perils of life in suburbia through darkly tinted, not rose-colored glassesa story similar in tone and setting to his last novel, Little Children (2004).
The New York Times
Tom Perrotta is a truth-telling, unshowy chronicler of modern-day America: the strong, silent type on paper…What does the author think of Pastor Dennis and his flock? As in Orhan Pamuk's Snow, a novel that devotes hundreds of pages to a heated battle between religious fanatics and educated secularists in a Turkish town without explicitly taking sides, Perrotta does not spell it out. Instead, he gives space and speeches to proselytizers and scoffers alike, letting readers form their own conclusions. Religion is no less controversial a subject to weave into fiction in this country than it is in Turkey. In any case, Perrotta has never been one to cast stones.
The New York Times Book Review
Campbell Scott's soft but edgy voice, earnest but with a sarcastic undertone, is a supremely apt fit for Perrotta's skewering of modern society. He is equally convincingly whether playing Ruth, a divorced mother and sex-education teacher whose community is becoming increasingly religious, to her transparent disgust, or Tim, Ruth's daughter's soccer coach and a born-again Christian who is dismayed to find himself slipping back to his old drug addict habits. Scott's tone shifts just slightly to distinguish between the deadpan humor of Ruth's gay friend Randall and the pious lack of humor of an "abstinence consultant" brought in to reform Ruth. The evenness of Scott's voice is a reminder of how similar everyone is on a certain basic level, and it makes for a greater impact when he does raise the volume or change his accent. Though Ruth and Tim oppose each other over religion, their love lives are both damaged, and Scott's quiet, intimate delivery brings out the wounded yet stubbornly hopeful side of both of them. This is an effective, smart and sharp production. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Reviews, July 9). (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Evangelical Christians and proponents of sex education (other than abstinence) usually don't see eye to eye, which certainly holds true in this novel by the author of Little Children. Ruth Ramsey is a tenured teacher who happily and quite successfully teaches sex ed to students at the Stonewood Heights high school. She firmly believes in providing kids with frank yet solid information so that they can make good choices. Ruth is also the divorced parent of two daughters, one a talented and avid soccer player. It is at a Saturday game that Ruth meets Tim Mason, a member of the Tabernacle, a local evangelical Christian church. This particular congregation has already had some run-ins with Ruth over her teaching methods, and Ruth is concerned when she discovers Tim leading the girls in prayer after a particularly exhilarating game. Perrotta deals with these timely issues by having characters from the different camps forced to confront one another. What results from these civilized exchanges, which feel so human in their complexity and confusion, is a more personal, inside view of how such tensions play out. Recommended for most collections and especially for Perrotta fans. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/15/07.]
Sex education, soccer and Christian fundamentalism make strange bedfellows in Perrotta's shrewd yet compassionate fifth novel. Neither as dark as Little Children (2004) nor as scathingly funny as Election (1998), like them it displays the author's wide-ranging empathy. Readers will certainly sympathize with Ruth Ramsey, the high-school teacher whose unwary response to a provocative classroom question about oral sex leads to her being saddled with a not-so-covertly Christian sex-ed curriculum. But Perrotta encourages us to respect all his characters, including the ones who belong to the Tabernacle of the Gospel Truth, source of the threatened lawsuit that's forced Ruth to tout the joys of abstinence. Among the believers is Tim Mason, a former rock musician and substance abuser who cleaned up with the help of the Tabernacle's Pastor Dennis, both a warm, nurturing shepherd to his flock and an unforgiving purveyor of hard-line doctrine. Ruth's older daughter Maggie plays on the soccer team Tim coaches, and she's outraged when he spontaneously leads them in a prayer after a hard-fought victory. That's about all the plot there is, as Ruth attempts to recruit other parents for a letter of protest and discovers that even in the affluent Northeastern suburb of Stonewood Heights the Christian right is a force to be reckoned with. Tim is beginning to have his doubts about his faith and especially about his marriage to Carrie, a sweet, much-younger woman who can't eradicate either his lustful memories of his ex-wife or his burgeoning attraction to Ruth. Perrotta makes gentle fun of Carrie dutifully leafing through a copy of Hot Christian Sex: The Godly Way to Spice Up Your Marriage, but also ofRuth's gay pal Gregory making elaborate dioramas of Parisian cafes featuring French Resistance Fighter GI Joes clad in black turtlenecks and berets. Confusion and regret are as much the subjects here as religious controversy. Ruefully humorous and tenderly understanding of human folly: the most mature, accomplished work yet from this deservedly bestselling author.
“He's the Steinbeck of suburbia.” Time
“A finely wrought novel.” Jerry Eberle, Booklist
“Perrotta is that rare combination: a satirist with heart….Those who haven't curled up on the couch with this writer's books are missing a very great pleasure.” Seattle Times
“Tom Perrotta is a truth-telling, unshowy chronicler of modern-day America.” The New York Times Book Review
“Ruefully humorous and tenderly understanding of human folly: the most mature, accomplished work yet from this deservedly bestselling author.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“Rife with Perrotta's subtle and satiric humor.” Publishers Weekly