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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  ·  7,789 ratings  ·  254 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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Aug 03, 2014 Louisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Louisa by: Eve
Shelves: 2014
Welcome to Endora, Iowa, where the only three things that people revere most are: family, Endora and Jesus Christ. God bless America. My name is Gilbert Grape, and I despise my hometown, most of my family, job and friends. Ever since my father hanged himself in the basement; my mother hasn't stopped eating and now, she's so damn big, only a crane will succeed in lifting her out. All she does these days is watch television and eat, eat and watch television. God bless America. My brother is disabl...more
“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 wit...more
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...more
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
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...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...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...more
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...more
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
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
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...more
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.
J.T. Holden
Hedges' masterful first-person/present-tense writing should be studied and studied (and studied again) by anyone thinking of writing a book in the first-person/present-tense style, because it is a style that only leads 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 is nothing short of a modern classic. I've read it over 30 times (o...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
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.
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.
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
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.
Stacy Fetters
"The more Christian you are, the more makeup you wear!"

Welcome to the small town of ENDora, Iowa. Where the grass is green, everybody knows your name and the Grapes are talked about daily. Story is about the Grape family coming to terms with a lot of rough patches. The father hangs himself, the mom goes into this depression and all she does is eat and then we have Arnie. Arnie has some form of mental situations. He's always treated like royalty and everyone loves him. Book can be twisted at time...more
Sarah Harakeh
Gilbert Grape is a young man who dreams of escaping from everything that is eating him alive in his town Endora, Iowa. Endora is a small town with a population of less than two thousand. Life there is slow going and anything new there becomes the talk of the town. The highlight of their lives is the opening of a fast food burger restaurant and Lance, a former resident in Endora, who became a news anchor.

His mother Donnie, who has not stop eating and getting fatter since her husband's suicide, i...more
Rachel Campbell
Jan 19, 2013 Rachel Campbell rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...more
Megan Anderson
This book was an impulse thrift purchase. I remember loving the movie when I was younger (how can you go wrong with a pre-weird Johnny Depp and a young Leonardo DiCaprio?), so I thought I’d check out the book. The book is always better. (Unless it’s adapted from the movie like the Omen. Or made into a wicked awesome TV series like Dexter.)

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a great anti-hero book. Gilbert is stuck. Stuck in his small town and stuck in a family full of disfunction: he has a father who...more
I absolutely adored this book. I already knew that there was a movie with the story, but I didn't know it was based off of a book. I grabbed it the second I saw it on Miss Beckett's bookshelf.

Anyway, one of the things that really stood out for me in this book was that all the characters were so unique and unlike anyone else in this book or just about every other book that I've read. Just Gilbert's family alone is so different from each other - their mother, a heavy smoker who is so obese that th...more
Sarah Weiser
Nov 09, 2011 Sarah Weiser is currently reading it
I chose to read this book because it was suggested to me and also because I have seen the movie, so I pretty much knew what would happen, but I wanted to see what was different. But the main reason I read it is because it was the only book I was interested in.
The main plot of the book is it is about a young man named Gilbert Grape. He lives in a small town called Endora, which is located in Iowa. Gilbert has a small job a small grocery store, he has a older sister named Amy, a younger brother...more
Cindy Hudson
The characters in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges are gritty and flawed and repulsive and totally engaging as well as entirely believable. It's a great study of a young man seeking meaning for his life and trying to decide when he can put his own needs before the needs of a very dysfunctional family.

Gilbert's day-to-day life in small-town Iowa is mind-numbingly realistic, and you can understand both his frustrations at the life he's living and the limitations that keep him living it....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
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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“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.” 7 likes
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