Wednesday, April 14, 2010


In my favorite chapter, Ruth and 3 other sex-ed teachers are having to write an essay on a sexual encounter that they regret. The fundamentalist woman in charge promises that she won't be judgmental--yeah, right. One teacher is a lesbian who writes about her first and only hookup with a guy. Then another woman writes about having sex with her best friend's husband-to-be. Then a guy writes about having sex with a minor. It's just too morbidly funny, because you can't help being judgmental. Ruth realizes that she regrets virtually ALL of her sexual encounters, and yet she's furious about having to advocate abstinence to high schoolers. Actually, the book is not so much about abstinence as it is about the conflict between the religious right and those of us who still believe in the separation of church and state. Tim is a soccer coach and reformed alcoholic whose life has been turned around by Christianity. When he leads the team in prayer after a big win, Ruth jumps into action, yanking her daughter from the circle. Ruth is feisty and righteously indignant, and I applauded her chutzpah, especially when she slaps Tim for lying to her. It would be easy to say that these two characters are an example of how opposites attract, but really their relationship is more complicated than that. Although Tim has remarried, both Tim and Ruth are trying to raise daughters jointly with their former spouses, and in some ways they're each responsible for the difficulties that the other is grappling with. Ruth's best friends are a gay couple, and when they hit a rocky spot because Gregory won't propose to Russell, Ruth suggests perhaps Russell should propose instead. She and Tim have a role reversal as well. She is obviously the stronger party and the gatekeeper of their relationship, driving away the forces, such as Pastor Dennis, who have a stranglehold on Tim's life.

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