Sunday, August 17, 2008

Immediate thoughts on Whats Eating Gilbert Grape

I just finished reading What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and spoiler alert! - if you haven't read the book or seen the movie you may want to stop reading.

I don't remember the mom dying in the movie, but she does in the book which came to a surprise to me. It was just so quick. But I guess that is the way death is, it's not trumpets and big balloons, it's just a moment. A moment of change. But it seemed to be a much more meaningful step forward in the life of the Grape children. The whole story felt like they were all waiting for the inevitable, but unsure of what that was. And when that inevitable happened, it was like an unknown weight was lifted, not only from each characters shoulders but also from the actual house itself. And to top it off, all the children collectively burn down the house. They take out what was important and what was needed and then set the house on fire. With their momma still inside. It was like their own farewell ceremony. The whole family operated in a way that worked for them, never doing what they felt others thought they should do.

I'm usually very sad when a character dies, but this seemed like a breath of fresh air for the family. This may have been the only ending of a book where a character dies and I can see the other characters moving on, rather than wallowing in the loss. How oddly satisfying.
I tend to like my books to go somewhere, to have a climax and a resolve. This book went somewhere but it's not until the last two pages that you realize the journey these characters have been on. The whole time Gilbert moves through his daily life in a dazed routine. He doesn't do anything because he wants to but simply because he has to. He has an obligation to his family that is slowly killing him but seems to be his life support too.

This story is wonderfully told through the mundane view of Gilbert Grape. Yet you want to keep reading, he gets under your skin and you care about him. You understand his unending need to please his family and his overwhelming urge to escape it all. It's a great character study into the whys of human nature and connection with others.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading your take on this book. It seemed like you truly internalized the characters. It takes a really good writer to put you INTO the story, not just reading it. I may have to read it now!