Reading Tom Perotta's latest novel, "The Abstinence Teacher," gave me the same comforted feeling that watching an hour-long HBO drama about someone else's dysfunctional family always does. Sure, we live in an America where some people are benighted religious loons, where teenaged children hate their parents, where the denial runs as deep as the cynicism. But at least everyone is attractive, in a well-lit, fresh-scrubbed way, and at least everyone's romance storyline has a chance of working out! This book is about Ruth, a divorced, mom-hot small town sex ed teacher who balks at teaching her school district's new abstinence based curriculum, and Tim, a divorced, dad-hot druggie deadbeat dad turned born-again Christian who feels Ruth's wrath after leading her teen daughter's soccer team in prayer. Sounds like these two have a lot to teach each other about religion, politics, and, why, who knows what else! It's a testament to Tom's considerable skill at keeping the machine of a novel humming briskly along that these somewhat predictable proceedings stay interesting until the closing credits. Uh, acknowledgments page, rather.