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Dinosaurs on the Roof: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 10, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his entertaining second novel, Obie Award–winning playwright Rabe (In the Boom Boom Room ) presents an overly eventful day-in-the-life of two women in smalltown Iowa. Elderly Bernice Doorley is convinced that in the company of Reverend Tauke and his followers, she will be on her way to heaven that evening, which, according to the reverend, is when the rapture is due to arrive. Bernice's main concern is who will take care of her beloved pets, particularly her old dog, General. On the outs with daughter Irma, Bernice turns to Janet Cawley, the eccentric daughter of her recently deceased friend, whose days revolve around jogging, drinking and sleeping with her married boyfriend. Bernice waits in her best outfit to be beamed up; Janet, meanwhile, has other adventures with a former student (she was a fourth-grade teacher). Serious topics like spirituality and mother-daughter relationships get an airing in this satire of American excess, but the proceedings end up increasingly contrived. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Rabe has crafted an intricate world that's astounding in its emotional truth. Without a single false note he delivers a performance that is at once deeply poignant and downright funny but always utterly, magnificently human. There is electricity in these pages. It's a roman candle of a novel, pure delight." -- Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors and Dry: A Memoir

"Dinosaurs on the Roof chronicles, in richest detail...the lives of these two unlikely companions...and complete a kind of soul swap in the process. One of America's most celebrated contemporary playwrights, Rabe tells Janet and Bernice's story in alternating chapters that amalgamate into an intricate -- nearly obsessive -- composite of memory and metaphor. Darkly comic, painstakingly observed, Dinosaurs on the Roof raises all the right questions about life, sex, death, faith, and survival in an increasingly unforgiving world." -- Pam Houston, O Magazine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416564055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416564058
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,369,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lorraine Berry on August 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I took DINOSAURS ON THE ROOF with me to a remote location in the mountains. Cut off from phone, internet, and contact with the world of humans, I read Mr. Rabe's book in the late afternoons, after hiking and exploring and making contact with the wilderness.
Undoubtedly, Janet and Bernice are not easy characters to love: absolutely chock-full of flaws, both of them are ornery, self-centered, and slow to forgive. Yet there wasn't a false note about them; they reminded me of people I knew, or have known, and so, I chose to hang out with them while they both made their way toward the epiphanies they sought: Bernice chasing the rapture of the Last Days, with Janet chasing human feeling while constantly numbing herself out with Jack Daniels.
It would be giving too much away to tell you which one of them finds a more true redemption, but I will say that there is much to admire in this book. Rabe is a playwright, and his gift for dialogue shines in this book. Much of the plot is moved forward by the conversations between characters, which is a remarkable feat in this day and age when we tend to admire the literary pyrotechnics of characters moving forward through metaphor and symbolism to get to their truths.
Here, human truths are hashed out in human ways: by talking through them--not always pleasantly. I found myself feeling like an eavesdropper, listening to two old women argue over the righteousness of their pastor, or Janet pleading for what she needs from people to whom she's willing to really give nothing.
Mr. Rabe is a keen observer of the human condition, and this is not a book for those who seek immediate gratification. Given that so much of this book is about the quest for that kind of immediate gratification, Mr. Rabe has crafted a book whose form follows its message.
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Format: Hardcover
It is easy to be drawn quickly and deeply into this book. Bernice, a middle-aged widow, has recently joined a cultish church whose pastor has the congregation believing that it will experience the Rapture that very night. Bernice's main concern is that her dogs will be fed once she has been "taken up."

What begins simply enough becomes the amazing 24-hour odyssey of Bernice Doorley and the parallel experience of her dead best friend's daughter Janet, who has been tapped to feed the dogs. Such a simple plot, peopled with ordinary-seeming women. How is it, then, that it all turns into a passionate and magnificent book?

The magic of Dinosaurs on the Roof is in its consistently rich and heartbreaking detail, the colorful and sometimes hilarious conversations, and the ability of both to cement permanently into the reader's emotional memory.

Everyone in this book is looking for a miracle; something to pitch them out of the dreary ordinariness of life. Is this it, they want to know, is this all? It can't be-I won't let it be all! Despite the humor, it takes guts to accompany Bernice on her epic struggle towards Rapture. David Rabe leads the reader through some anguishing and difficult moments, indeed. But he is to be trusted. He will lead you out, and you will be smiling.
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Format: Hardcover
David Rabe's plays were the reason I was eager to read Dinosaurs on the Roof, for I've always admired the energy in his drama. Initially I had trouble 'getting into it', but thereafter I was fully engaged. Several mid-western-isms struck my ear as `off', but that's my problem, not Rabe's. I wondered initially whether the novel's theme of redemption was working until I saw it at work: the Rapture embraced by Bernice. That's all we have, our particular raptures, the embraces of life we must believe in or else our lives are derailed. Janet must cross the Styx before she finds her rapture, and within the crossing she thinks a number of times she may have found it (Robbie, for example). For her, for the moment, she thinks the rapture is sex until she finds it isn't that at all. She's just missing a center she may just find by novel's end - and if she doesn't, then she'll remain in hell. But each of us, as we also see in Bernice, has his hell, and as the child is father of the man, so we see Janet in her turn perhaps becoming what Bernice is now, the difference, other than the major one of religion, being only generational. Unable to shed our skins, we are all alike under the sun: desire, dying, bodily functions, hope, despair, love - we all possess these and other aspects to a greater or lesser degree.. However, the beauty of the perspective in `Dinosaurs' regards the redemptive. We look for a rapture in our forgiveness, toward others, toward ourselves. Bernice is illustrative of the 1st (and something of the 2nd) ; Janet, the 2nd. Humor in Dinosaurs on the Roof is displayed in the ironic plasticity of the reading moment where one through the dialog or narrative becomes involved in that moment - in that humor - where the characters see no humor in the moment at all. Dinosaurs on the Roof, a major achievement, will not surprise those who know Rabe's work.
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Format: Hardcover
Two days in the lives of Janet Cawley and Bernice Doorley of Belger, Iowa, where the members of Rev. Tauke's Church of the Angels huddle in prayer and munch burgers as they await the imminent coming of the Lord. Keen observer of human foibles and aspirations that he is, Rabe holds us in suspense over 400 plus pages while we wonder whether the Rapture will happen or not, and if so, how, and for whom? And will Bernice's dogs and cats survive? With his gift for freezing a moment in time, as he imaginatively threads his way through the labyrinth of the human mind and emotions, Rabe carries us over fourteen-line sentences of non-sequiturs, where one thing might just as well have been something else--as is often the case in our aimless musings. Alternating between the sublime and the mundane, he allows us to peek into those private and public moments, when religious fervor and human concerns meet and we sometimes don't realize it. With fairness and compassion he has us pause to understand some of those quirky, annoying people we know and to temper our judgments with a sense of humor that dispels meanness. And above all he helps us see ourselves as others see us and don't see us. Read it with a smile and with an ear for his colorful prose. Follow his unexpected twists and turns as he provides a bumpy ride toward the surprising resolution of Bernice's religious quest and Janet's growing dilemma. And when you're finished, you'll miss the vividly drawn characters that populate David Rabe's narrative world.

George Nickelsburg
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