This is yet another Tom Perrotta novel I read. I happened to like this one just fine, without any real feelings of warmth or excitement about it. It’s structured a lot like his other novels, where we follow a handful of intermixed characters through the narrative understanding more about them and how they interact throughout.
The premise here starts with a high school health teacher kind of sarcastically, but honestly answering a student’s question during sex-ed about oral sex. The question, isn’t oral sex the same as licking a toilet — hardly fair — was answered with, well, I hear some people enjoy it.
This leads to a small scandal in the town, newly invaded by a growing evangelical Christian congregation, adopting an abstinence-only education curriculum. You can see where this is going. That tamps down and we follow the teacher through a stressful six months where among other things she gets into shape, goes to her daughter’s travel soccer game, meets the hunky coach, finds out he’s one of them, where he has the whole team pray.
We switch to Tim, the soccer coach’s perspective and find out that like a lot of evangelical converts, he’s a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. He’s heavily involved in the church, struggling mightily with faith and addiction, in a loveless, church-sponsored marriage, and also is divorced with a daughter on the team. It all goes from there.
The book is fine, but more or less toothless….the godless are not evil or great, same with the Christians. It’s a perfectly nice, insightful, harmless look at contemporary American life ala 15 years ago.