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A Novel Worth Reading

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A Novel Worth Reading

---- Book Review on WhatЎЇs Eating Gilbert Grape

"I would hope that people might view their fellow beings, all beings, with more empathy, more compassion, with a desire to understand. Even if they can't know why people are the way they are, to understand that they're probably that way for a good reason." said Peter Hedges, author of the book What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and the book has helped him realize this wish.

Gilbert Grape, a 24-year-old GenXer, lives in Endora, a dying small town where life is Ў°like dancing to no music.Ў± He works at a grocery, whose business is threatened by the newly opened supermarket. GilbertЎЇs mother, who was once the town sweetheart, has not stopped eating since her husband hanged himself in the basement, and the floor beneath her TV chair is threatening to cave in. His elder sister Amy still mourns the death of Elvis and the fact that her boyfriend dumped her. Ellen, the younger sister who is hooked on makeup and boys, quarrels relentlessly with him. The biggest event on the horizon for all the Grapes is the eighteenth birthday of Gilbert's retarded younger brother, Arnie, who is a living miracle just for having survived so long. When everything in Endora is eating Gilbert Grape and all that he thinks about is leaving, a worldly and beautiful girl Becky rides through town on a bicycle, helping him to have a new vision of his family and himselfЎ­

There is no one specific plot to this novel, though many conflicts do arise. What makes it so good is the interaction between characters and the unique language style.

The family and the characters in What's Eating Gilbert Grape might be strange, but they seem like real characters with real emotions, for the author successfully gives each of them a vivid depiction.

Arnie is about to turn eighteen, but mentally, he is like a five-year-old. He always has traces of some food on his face, and when he feels like it, he climbs up on the water tower, or catches grasshoppers and chops off their heads. He never listens to his brother or sister, and always makes trouble for them. However, when we are reading, we do not hate him or laugh at him, for he just does not know any better. He not only arouses readersЎЇ compassion, but also is loved and protected by all his family. It is through that that we see the power of love maintains this Ў°dysfunctionalЎ± family.

Momma is also quite a character. She keeps on eating, smoking, and watching TV without leaving her TV chair, and she never goes to bed to sleep. Nevertheless, when the police catch Arnie because he has climbed up on the water tower again, she leaves the house for the first time in the seven years, ignoring other peopleЎЇs gossip, to get her son back. When readers consider Momma only to be a big smoking whale, she shows the strength of a great mother, and makes us respect and admire her even more.

Gilbert is the bread earner of the family, but his full-time job is taking care of Arnie. Gilbert cares for Arnie with all his heart, and what he always says is Ў°You don't hurt Arnie, you just don't.Ў± He is inconceivably patient with Arnie: When Arnie gets dirty, he bails him to take a bath; When Arnie says he loves the merry-go-round, he lets him ride on it again and again for a whole afternoon. At the same time, we see a GenXer who hates the small and monotonous town he lives in and a brother and son who loves his family wholeheartedly.

The author is very good at using dialogues. The short, but humorous and meaningful dialogues, vividly depicts all the unique characters. We can know clearly what kind of a boy Arnie is from the following example:

Ў°(Gilbert:) Ў®Why do you think that is?ЎЇ

(Arnie:) Ў®Because.ЎЇ

For Arnie, that is an answer.Ў±

The language style is also a reason why the novel is attractive. Although the sentences are not long, they are ironic and powerful. When the author describes GilbertЎЇs job, he writes: Ў°Lamson

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