Has there been a film made of it?
Starring Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio – in 1993. DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his performance. It also had Mary Steenburgen and John C. Reilly in it.
Who are the main characters?
Gilbert Grape – a 24 year old stuck in a dead end town and dead end job, shouldering the responsibility of holding together his dysfunctional family
Arnie Grape – a 17 year old mentally retarded boy, the next to youngest Grape
Becky – a teenage girl who has half of Endora in love with her but is interested in Gilbert
Bonnie Grape – the mother of the Grape family, unbelievably obese
Amy Grape – the next to oldest Grape, she cooks all the food for the house and is a huge Elvis fan
Ellen Grape – the youngest Grape and one of the town’s beauties, obsessed with being adored
Mrs. Carver – the wife of the town’s insurance agent, Gilbert’s lover
Tucker Van Dyke – Gilbert’s best friend, determined to get a job at Burger Barn
What’s it about?
The story mainly covers Gilbert’s journey toward realizing he needs to leave Endora and his family if he ever wants a life. He is in charge of taking care of Arnie, his younger and developmentally handicapped brother. He’s stuck in a job in a soon-t0-be-obsolete grocery store and his life is shaken up when an entrancing girl comes to Endora for the summer, Becky. Becky becomes interested in him because he hates his life. And meanwhile, the Grape’s severly obese, former beauty queen mother, is eating her way through each day waiting for Arnie’s unprecedented 18th birthday.
Why is this book a classic?
Mainly because of the movie, to be honest.
Why should I read this book?
I don’t know, it isn’t that spectacular. It has some very funny parts and a very poignant ending but other than that, it isn’t a “must read.”
Has it won any awards?
“I feel sorry for them, believing in me the way they do. I’m not the stock boy I once was. Plus, there’s nothing worse than being told you’re good when you know you’re bad. For a moment, I even mourn for the eggs. Their sudden, tragic death at the hands of a deceptive employee. Life might be full of wonderful surprises as Mr. Lamson says. But more than that I believe Life is full of unfairness. I offer the fate of the eggs as proof of my point.” -p31
“When I pull up at Dairy Dream, I notice three girls. Two of them are chubby and plain and they are walking toward the Dream. They look familiar. The third girl doesn’t. She is straddling a boys’ bike, standing motionless, staring at something. The third girl my eyes can’t deny. She has black hair, thick and full. It drapes her shoulders. She has legs, tender and strong. Oh my. From where I’m sitting, she is not to be believed. She is the moon. I put my truck in park, turn off the engine, take the headlights out, and roll down the window – all in slow motion. I breathe with great difficulty. Certain that I must be imagining this, I look around to see if this is Life that is happening. This is my truck. These are my hands. That’s my little sister scraping the insides of the fudge machine. Yes, this is Life.” -p51
Peter Hedges also wrote “Pieces of April” which he dedicated to his mother, and the screenplay for “About a Boy.”
I wasn’t super impressed by this book. There were some incidents of beautiful writing – and I absolutely loved Arnie. But Gilbert and Becky just annoyed the heck out of me. Gilbert struck me as a teenager, even though he is 24. And Becky just didn’t come across as real (which I suppose was the point). I didn’t feel the story had any semblance of a visible plot, unless you count an emotional journey. And possibly I just didn’t get it. That’s always possible.