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Book Review: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

what's eating gilbert grape

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Title: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Author: Peter Hedges

Gilbert Grape is a 24-year-old grocery store clerk stuck in Endora, Iowa, where the population is 1,091 and shrinking. After the suicide of Gilbert’s father, his family never recovered. Once the town beauty queen, Gilbert’s mother is morbidly obese after seven years of house-bound depression; his younger sister is boy-crazy and God-fearing, while his older sister sacrifices everything for her family. And then there’s Arnie, Gilbert’s younger brother with special needs. With no one else to care for Arnie, Gilbert becomes his brother’s main parent, and all four siblings must tend to the needs of their helpless, grieving mother.

So Gilbert is in a rut—until an enchanting new girl arrives in town. His family gathers for Arnie’s 18th birthday and Becky, the mysterious and lovely newcomer, breathes new life into Gilbert’s world. But can one person really change Gilbert, or his attitudes about his family and Endora? Rich with memorable characters, biting frustration, and family redemption, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape can’t be missed.

I am so late! I have never seen this movie. My fiance said it is such a great movie, but of course me being me, I had to find out if it was a book first. It was! I quickly went on Amazon and bought it for my Kindle.

While it did take me a while to read this book, it was not because I didn’t want to but because I was busy. I really enjoyed the story. It is one of those stories that I think a lot of people can relate too, especially someone who is from a very small and rural town. I couldn’t imagine being stuck in that small town and wanting to be free but feeling obligated to stay with your family.

Throughout the story I continuously felt for Gilbert. You could really sense his confusion as to where to go next. He wanted to break free, but often found himself stuck because of his dysfunctional family. The whole town knew about them, this had both its advantages and disadvantages, both of which Gilbert seemed to resent.

I could truly understand why Gilbert began to want to distance himself from his family. From his overweight mother to his special needs brother, Gilbert dealt with a lot. Many in the household were relying on him and his small job working at a small grocery store. What I liked was in the end the family was able to come together. Tragedy often does that to people. It allows them to see each other for more then their outer appearances. It washes away all anger and can truly bring people together. It is this togetherness that allowed Gilbert to love his family again. The hatred was gone and Gilbert began to truly love and appreciate his family for what it was.

One of the things that really stood out to me about this book was Arnie’s character.  There was so much love for Arnie, from the town and the family. Parenting is tough as it is, I could not imagine having a child who is special needs. The brother and sisters were constantly having to trail behind him and check on him. He must have been tiring to constantly chase after someone who is the size of an adult but acts as if he is 6. This shows how family can truly pull together and work together.

All in all I think this was a great story. Hedges did a wonderful job in painting a picture of small town living and how it can be both positive and negative. While Gilbert despised the changes around the town, it was change that he strongly craved. It is this kind of contradiction that made the story entertaining. I wish that there was more of a wrap up with the ending, but other then that it was worth reading.

Have you read or watched What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? If so, what did you think? I would love to hear from you :-)!


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