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What's Eating Gilbert Grape
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What's Eating Gilbert Grape

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,932 Ratings  ·  367 Reviews
Just about everything in Endora, Iowa (pop. 1,091 and dwindling) is eating Gilbert Grape, a twenty-four-year-old grocery clerk who dreams only of leaving. His enormous mother, once the town sweetheart, has been eating nonstop ever since her husband's suicide, and the floor beneath her TV chair is threatening to cave in. Gilbert's long-suffering older sister, Amy, still mou ...more
Paperback, 319 pages
Published November 1st 1999 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 1st 1991)
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Jul 01, 2014 Eve rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
“You can tell the idyllic nature of a family by the upkeep of its picnic table. Ours is its own indictment. We are splintering and peeling. We rot.” – Gilbert Grape

Before Jonathan Safran Foer was the talk of literary circles for writing Everything is Illuminated at such a young age, there was Peter Hedges. What's Eating Gilbert Grape is his profound post-coming-of-age novel about twenty-four year old Gilbert Grape, a grocery store stock boy living in the tiny town of Endora, Iowa. Grappling wi
Mar 05, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From a passage in the book where Momma is talking to Gilbert about motherhood/creastion: "I see you and I know that I'm a god. Or a goddess. Godlike! And this house is my kingdom. Yes, Gilbert. This chair is my throne. And you, Gilbert, are my knight in shimmering armor."..."Shining, I think, Momma, is what you mean."..."No, I know what I mean. You don't shine, Gilbert. You shimmer. You hear?. You shimmer!"

My dictionary defines shimmer as a verb and as a noun: to shine with or reflect a soft, tr
Dec 20, 2014 Kandice rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1412-challenge
Gilbert Grape lives at home with two of his three sisters, Amy and Ellen, and one of his two brothers, Arnie. Arnie is mentally handicapped and depends on Gilbert for a lot. So do his sisters, but Arnie's dependence is draining. Then there's Gilbert's momma. She also lives with them and is poifectly huge. Like hundreds of pounds worth of huge. She was once the prettiest girl in Endora where all the Grape family home is located, but not. The whole Grape clan is just counting the days to ...more
You know what makes me hang my head in shame?
The fact that I didn't know this book was a book until earlier this year.
I am not even kidding. Yes, I am a librarian and have been for a really long time and still, I had no idea this was a book.
So much shame for me.
My ridiculous excuse that I just now made up to make myself feel better about my prior ignorance: This came out in 1991 and I had been in college for a year and was getting the hang of things and really buckling down to study and such. I
One of the few books where I enjoyed the movie version more. Here are some unsettling things about the book version that got left out of the movie:
-Gilbert is kind of an asshole, especially the way he constantly refers to his brother as "the retard." Not even Johnny Depp could have made that a likeable trait.
-Becky, Gilbert's love interest, is fourteen. He is in his mid-twenties. They do not sleep together, but they definitely want to, and it is creepy.
-Glbert's younger sister goes on a date wi
From IMDb:
Gilbert has to care for his brother Arnie and his obese mother, which gets in the way when love walks into his life.
Karolina Kat
You don’t shine, Gilbert. You shimmer. You hear? You shimmer!

Like many before me, for a long time I had no idea that there was a book upon which one of the most important movies of my adolescent years was based.
The story of the Grape family in the novel is more realistic, while all the characters are simply more human. There aren't that many good people in the little town of Endora, and Gilbert falls rightin between the white and the black.

[...]there’s nothing worse than being told you’re good
Dec 05, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I felt honored to be allowed inside Gilbert's head, because he always says the opposite of what he's thinking, and doesn't let anybody inside his head. His distance from everyone let's him look at them in a light untouched by positive regard or optimism. He shares with the reader the brutal truth of what he's thinking, which is often guiltily hysterical.

Even still, you know there's a heart somewhere in there by the way he looks after Arnie. It was one of the sweetest relationships I've ever seen
Asghar Abbas
May 17, 2016 Asghar Abbas rated it it was amazing

Thought I was different and it seems I'm just the same
As a game I put my hand over the flame
I thought, I was smarter as I flew into the sun
But it turned out the way it does with everyone

Oh, oh, I don't fly around your fire anymore
I don't fly around your fire anymore
Burned and fallen down so many times before
I don't fly around your fire anymore

I love the heat, I love the things that I forgot
I love the strings that tie me down and cut me off
I was a king, I was a moth with painted wings made of clo
Feb 01, 2011 Vanessa rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I have this friend who has a rule (although he will deny that it's a rule) that he won't see movies if he has read the book-and vice versa-because it's a waste of time when there are so many movies to be seen and books to be read. And sometimes that is true but I am pretty much the opposite. If I liked the book, I'm curious to see how they adapt it for the screen. If I liked the movie or at least found it interesting, I want to go back to read the book to fill in the inevitable blanks. House of ...more
Feb 10, 2009 Addie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone.
Shelves: favorites
One of my very favorite books. I'd seen (and loved) the movie version before picking up this book, but it was the style of writing that made it jump out to me and establish itself as separate. Gilbert's inner monologue? Brilliant and hilarious, I could go on and on. It felt so REAL to me. Mr. Hedges is very talented. Through the prose I was enveloped in the sleepy town vibe so completely that I felt as if Endora were my own hometown, familiar in every way. I continue to recommend this book to an ...more
Jaime Navarro
Mar 03, 2010 Jaime Navarro rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
I loved this book! The story is simple but engaging and the character of Gilbert Grape is one of the most well constructed male characters I’ve read in a long time. I enjoyed it so much because it’s not quite a coming of age story; Gilbert is older and feels the adult pressures of being a grown up but he’s still young enough that his life has not passed him by, even though he thinks it has, and all these other characters in the book are trying to show him this.
Coming from a “unique” family my
This is a tough one for me to rate. I mean, I read it forever and a day ago, but forgot some of the parts. Have seen the movie a million and a half times, and still adore it to this day.

But for me, the book felt like it was missing some pieces. Not that it has to do with that "show-not-tell" stuff everyone is cramming down everyone's throats in books these days. I like a skimmed down, show the important things to the main character, get to the story way this book is told. It doesn't play around
Mad Dog
Mar 09, 2011 Mad Dog rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
This book is not really informative, deep, or insightful. I am talking about the first person narrator (Gilbert) as well as the book. Gilbert is thoroughly mediocre in thought and deed. He wears a 'perma-frown'. He likes to brood. The book relies on his thoughts more than his actions, as he is very passive(repressed). Most of the supporting characters are annoyingly shallow.

None of this really sounds like a good book to me.

But this book (and Gilbert) did very much captivate me. I am rooting har
Mar 18, 2011 Marialyce rated it it was ok
Another title for this book could have been "Dysfunctional Family Personified." While I did enjoy the read, I felt that the subject matter has been done often and frankly a lot better. We follow Gilbert and his family of siblings and a grossly overweight mother through their sufferings and eventually experience their love realizations of each other. Sorrow and pity abound for this family as we witness the destruction of this unit which seemed to be kicked off by the suicide of the father. The si ...more
Mel Bossa
Sep 22, 2015 Mel Bossa rated it really liked it
Shelves: 0008-fiction
I really enjoyed this book.

There is a sensibility to Hedges' writing I found endearing and addictive. Yes, the dialogue is sometimes a little forced and some of the characters are a tad too eccentric to come off real, but Gilbert Grape's voice makes up for all of that.

This is a great novel I'm glad I finally read.

I almost feel like I lived in Endora for the last two days. For anyone who's grown up in a small town, this tale will resonate with you.

Gilbert's resistance to Food Land and Burger Ba
Jan 20, 2014 Brian added it
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? from the perspective of someone who grew up in Iowa -- that field-of-dreams, first-to-the-primaries, nothing-but-corn-and-more-corn mythical paradise that purports to be the heartbeat of the United States -- is a romance. Romance, not in sense of 24 year old Gilbert being torn between an affair with a married woman old enough to be his mum and a femme fatal 15 year old from Michigan, but in the sense of Don Quixote in quest of the Holy Grail, of Holden Caulfield sear ...more
Jul 05, 2009 Lesley rated it it was amazing
This is by far one of my favorite books! Before reading this novel, I had previously read Hedges's other novel, An Ocean in Iowa. Both are fantastic! Those of you avoiding the novel because you've seen the movie are making a mistake. Gilbert is an amazing character who struggles to understand his role in the world. His musings are both funny and introspective and make you think of a time when you felt the same ennui with life. I've followed Hedges's career since, and though he doesn't write nove ...more
Jul 01, 2009 Talia rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
I'm really upset that this book isn't appropriate for me to read with my 8th graders. I was really looking forward to giving them something full of feeling, something real, something with the kind of problems that actually exist, and of course, showing them a Johnny Depp movie. But there is too much for me to overlook, at least for the 8th grade.

I really liked many themes in common with The Catcher in the Rye...just a different generation, a different family, a different landscape.
Aug 15, 2014 Alexis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
This was my favourite book when I was a teenager. I loved it when I was in high school, had parts of it memorized and read it multiple times. I was nervous and scared to read it. But you know what, I LOVED it. It's extremely well written and the voice is strong. It is funny and sad and influential. It has shaped the way I write . I still love this book. I noticed that the author has a contact form on his website. I intend to write him a note.
J.T. Holden
Dec 01, 2014 J.T. Holden rated it it was amazing
Hedges' masterful first novel should be studied and studied (and studied again) by anyone thinking of writing a book in the first-person/present-tense because it is a style that only lends itself properly to a particular voice, rhythm, and cadence. It should never be approached in the same manner as a novel written in the more common first-person/past-tense. That said, What's Eating Gilbert Grape is nothing short of a modern classic. I've read it over 30 times (on one particular occasion, I imme ...more
A great story with a great protagonist and supporting characters. I stumbled across this story totally by accident - forgot to send in the "no thanks" card one month for a book club and this showed up, and I opened the box thinking it was something else. Repackaging it and paying return shipping looked like a hassle so I sighed and decided to read a little of it and see whether it was any good, and I was hooked almost instantly. A lucky find with some strong things to say about love, family, and ...more
Jan 08, 2010 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star
Long before the movie came out, I pulled this off the library shelf because the title and cover caught my eye. Nice criteria, no? The acid test, for me, is reading the first page. If I get bored, the book goes back. If I find myself on page ten before I realize it, it's a keeper. This fell into the latter category. Hedges does a great job with quirky (but not two dimensional) characters in sometimes hysterical, sometimes heart-breaking situations.
Dec 07, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing
I saw this movie in middle school or high school and thought it was really well done. At this point I only really remember my impressions of the movie and a few major parts. When I started reading the book, my first thought was, "Wow, I wonder if Gilbert was this cold in the movie and I just don't remember?!" The more I read though, the more I realized that was what made the book so good. You got to hear his inner dialog which showed how he really felt and what he wanted to say, but seldom did. ...more
Feb 25, 2016 addison rated it it was amazing
WHAT THE FLIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oct 19, 2015 Pamela rated it it was ok
This, like "Fight Club" is a fine example of that rarity: a movie that is better than the book.

I haven't seen the movie in several years, but there are still scenes that I remember. I finished reading the book just two weeks ago, and it's already become hazy. My rapidly fading impression of Book Gilbert is an irritating character who is old enough he should be getting over the Teenage Angst Phase. My impression of Movie Gilbert is someone who is doing all he can to hold his family together.

The question is, what exactly is eating Gilbert Grape? Well, just about everything...

This book was incredibly difficult to find at the local library, unless I wanted to take the resources and buy a copy of my own. However, I finally got my hands in a copy, and I must say it was probably worth the trouble. I'm sad to say I watched the movie long before I read the book, but the movie was quite good and one of DiCaprio and Depps' notable performances. It was certainly one of my favorites growing up
Anna (Yoda Is My Spirit Animal)
Loved it (and not because any of those bastards were that loveable either). Full review to come.


I did not even know this was a book until I ran across it by chance on Goodreads, on some list or another. If you don't like personal reviews, abandon ship now because this shit's about to get real up-close-and-personal -- because this book was super-personal and self-revelatory for me as a human being. That doesn't mean I will necessarily be gushing about it to everyone who asks for book
Rachel Campbell
Jan 19, 2013 Rachel Campbell rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: hmm...not sure, I suppose people who like depressing books

What's eating Gilbert Grape?

Well, if you think that something is actually physically eating Gilbert Grape, then you will be greatly disappointed (which, I suppose there could be a case made that Mrs. Carver did...but that is something I rather not go into). By the end of the book, I was kind of hoping a giant yellow pacman would come along and devour him...but no such luck.


I had to read this book for school ( that is not why I did not love it). It was jus
Rebecca McNutt
Apr 14, 2015 Rebecca McNutt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you haven't read this book or seen the film adaptation, this is one book you should definitely read at some point because it's an amazingly written coming-of-age story about a young man dealing with a dysfunctional family while trying to find his own place in the world as well. His mom is seen by the townspeople as being a gross, lazy pig, but Gilbert often is saddened to think that at one time she was considered extremely beautiful - and to him and his broken yet closely-knit family, she sti ...more
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Peter Hedges is an American novelist, screenwriter, and film director. His novel What's Eating Gilbert Grape was adapted into a critically acclaimed movie of the same title, which launched his film career.

In 2002 he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for About a Boy. In the same year, he wrote and directed Pieces of April, starring Katie Holmes, which he dedicated to
More about Peter Hedges...

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“A man who works all day, every day and loves each apple he uncrates, who cherishes each can of soup - a man like that surely puts us all to shame.” 10 likes
“In a cement park across the street is this giant sculpture. It is a giant umbrella frame lying on its side. It's green. Stand under it, during a rainstorm, you'll still get wet - that's why it's art.” 9 likes
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