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

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  9,235 ratings  ·  290 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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“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
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
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
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
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
Feb 10, 2009 Addie rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Jaime Navarro
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
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
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.
Mad Dog
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
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
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
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
J.T. Holden
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
Jul 01, 2009 Talia rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
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.
Aug 15, 2014 Alexis rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
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
Rebecca McNutt
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
I really enjoyed this book. I've loved the movie since I first saw it about fifteen years ago, but I think I actually preferred the book. It was more real. I liked how Gilbert rarely said what he felt. When he thought negative things, he feigned positive reactions. And he hardly ever said the nice things he was thinking about people out-loud. Gilbert Grape is such a complex character, but by the end of the book I really felt like I knew him, and I was sorry to say goodbye to him. I was really mo ...more
It's hard to put into words how reading the word Retard makes me feel. The book was written in a time when it wasn't so taboo to say it, but was it ever okay to say it really? I can only imagine it's how it feels to read any derogatory slang when it hits close to home. Every time I saw it, I just got a little pang in my heart. It was relative to the story though, and just how they talked. I loved the story, the characters and the writing. Having already seen the movie, it was easy to imagine the ...more
Loved it!
This book and its film adaptation do not easily leave you. I saw the film years ago but it was only recently that I wanted to revisit it in its literary form after my acting teacher cited the film as one of her most favorite performances by Johnny Depp.

I sometimes will read a book after seeing the film, and each time I have found it to be rewarding in that the book adds another, often different layer of understanding to the usually vibrant images film has the ability to leave behind, and this w
Katie Bliss
When I first realized the movie was based on this book, I couldn't have been happier. I am a huge fan of the movie and when I first started the book, it was so similar, I thought I'd hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, this is one of those rare cases of the movie being an even better version than the book. There wasn't nearly enough heart in the novel, so it ended up feeling completely depressing, almost pointless. The Becky character in the book was 15 years old so of course Gilbert couldn't touch ...more
This was unlike many books I've read in awhile. While not "descriptive" in its narrative, Hedges succeeded in telling a rather gripping tale simply from internal thoughts (Gilbert's point of view) and very snappy dialogue.
It made me feel Gilbert's almost claustrophobic life in that small Iowa town-- kept there by a family who desperately needs him.
A compelling story.
Marts  (Thinker)
The story of Gilbert Grape and his family and all the troubles they go through with thier retarded brother and obese mother who is on the verge of falling through the floor.
There is also the movie starring Johnny Depp and Leonardo DeCaprio.
Azure Stever
I really enjoyed reading this novel. Gilbert Grape has spent his whole life living in the small town of Endora, Iowa, and all he wants to do is escape. To do this, he would have to leave behind his family, which includes an overly obese mother who hasn't left the house in seven years, and a mentally disabled younger brother who is about to turn eighteen. Gilbert feels like he is being eaten alive, living in that small town with such a dysfunctional family, and he doesn't know what to do. It isn' ...more
Oh, you know these contemporary authors...

Absorbing, unsettling, allegro. The movie is more realistic and more palatable than the book, but the book has a more focused point of view.
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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...
The Heights An Ocean in Iowa About a Boy: The Shooting Script Pieces of April: The Shooting Script Imagining Brad and The Valerie of Now.

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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.” 8 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.” 8 likes
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