Dinosaurs on the Roof
By David Rabe
496 pages. Simon & Schuster.
Janet Cawley has divorced her husband, lost her mother, quit her job, and taken up living in a Quaalude-and-Jack-Daniel's–induced haze in the small town of Belger, Iowa. Janet has no friends except her drug dealer, runs obsessively, and is certain that every man at the hardware store wants to bed her. Bernice Doorley, an old friend of Janet's mother's, has been at least partially convinced by the Reverend Tauke that the Rapture is fast upon them, and that she and several other congregation members will be among the chosen few. Alienated from her own daughter, Bernice calls upon Janet to care for her beloved pets—Happy, Sappy, General, Elmira, and Ira—for however many days there will be between when she gets "taken up" and the foretold end of the world.
David Rabe's Dinosaurs on the Roof (Simon & Schuster) chronicles, in richest detail, the 24 hours that follow Reverend Tauke's prediction as the lives of these two unlikely companions converge, merge, 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.