Review of Dinosaurs on the Roof by David Rabe
Dinosaurs on the Roof
by David Rabe
Having finished this book, I can't recall what made me decide to read it in the first place. I can't think of much to recommend it.
The basic premise sounded OK (and maybe that was why I borrowed it)--an elderly woman, Bernice, stops by the apartment of her deceased friend's daughter, Janet. Bernice is a member of a small church group (which is "notacult"), and her reverend has announced that the Rapture will visit them that very night. Naturally, she's concerned about who will feed her pets, so she drafts Janet to do it for her. Janet, meanwhile, has her own problems to deal with. And in the course of the next two days, these two women's problems multiply and intersect.
I'm sure this book had its moments, but it's hard to recall any right now. The problem with this book is that it was not bad per se but more blah. While the beginning and ending were ok, the middle took a wrong turn near Albuquerque and rapidly degenerated into a Picasso painting instead of a novel. There were characters who popped up, only never to be seen again (Wayne, Bobby) and characters who were completely unbelievable (Big Baby Dog). On top of that, the narrative style grated on my teeth. I had an easy time getting through it--that was the problem. This is unfortunately one of those books where you can just skim through without paying much attention to what happens. So in order to get any idea of what was going on, in case I was missing the part where "it gets good," I had to trudge slowly through every sentence.
Both of the main characters were annoying. Bernice is self-centred and judgemental, so much so that Rabe has to introduce an even more exaggerated version of her character (uber-Bernice!) in the form of Bernice's friend Hazel to offset Bernice's own flaws. Still, whatever her follies, Bernice has one redeeming quality: at the end of the book, she actually takes it upon herself to initiate change. Janet, on the other hand, begins the book fucked up and stays that way, it seems. Her last couple of chapters consist of a semi-inebriated/high journey back home from the house of a young man she taught in fourth grade about ten years ago (whom she had unsuccessfully tried to seduce after becoming drunk). As far as I can make out, she apparently arrives back at her apartment intact and promptly considers it a victory over all the men in her life who have let her down. Or something like that.
If Rabe was trying to make a point (other than the nice but obvious theme that "forgiveness is good and will set you free"), I missed it because of the bland pill of a story I had to swallow. It's a shame, because "Dinosaurs on the Roof" is such a good title, and now this book has gone and wasted it.