True Believers

Liesl Schillinger in The New York Times:

Child Children, even good children, hide some part of their private lives from their parents; and parents, having been young and furtive themselves, remember the impulse. So when Ruth Ramsey, the divorced 41-year-old mother who is the protagonist of Tom Perrotta’s new novel, “The Abstinence Teacher,” learns that her teenage daughter, Eliza (who could be a grumpy, pimply poster child for “The Awkward Years”), has concealed a book from her, she’s not surprised. “She must have kept it hidden in a drawer or under a mattress,” she reflects — just as she herself once hid books like “The Godfather” and “The Happy Hooker.” But the book Eliza has been keeping under wraps is not a pulp fiction fable of vice and libertinage: it’s the Bible. And Eliza has yet another secret to spring on her mother: she and her little sister, Maggie, want to start going to church. To Ruth, a tolerant, progressive sex-ed teacher, her daughters’ embrace of “Goody Two-Shoes Christianity” comes as a slap in the face. “I don’t think you’re a born-again, fundamentalist, evangelical, nut-job Christian,” she tells Eliza, not imagining she would disagree. “I believe in God,” Eliza stubbornly replies. “And I believe that Jesus is His only son, and that He died on the cross for my sins.”

Ruth is a protective mother and wants a say in whom her daughters choose for friends. But can a parent tell her kids she thinks Jesus is a bad influence and retain the moral high ground?

More here.