Sixty-year-old Rudy Harrington is a man searching for answers. His wife Helen has been dead for seven years, but he's still haunted by the affair she had while teaching college art students in Italy. He's restless in his longtime job as a produce broker, and struggles to forge adult relationships with his three grown daughters. Rudy's decision to buy an avocado grove and move from Chicago to the dusty Texas-Mexico border to run it opens the door to the strange and wonderful events recounted in this charming novel.

Robert Hellenga's fourth novel gracefully tells the story of a man seeking ultimate meaning amid the mundane events of daily life. Happily, Philosophy Made Simple is anything but an introspective or pedantic work. In it, readers will meet an engaging cast of characters (featuring some introduced in Hellenga's first novel, The Sixteen Pleasures) that includes a prickly Hindu holy man, a kindly Mexican flower shop owner who provides professional companionship to middle-aged men, and a gentle elephant named Norma Jean. The novel's central action revolves around the obstacles that confront Rudy as he tries to stage a traditional Hindu wedding in Texas for his daughter Molly and her Indian fiancŽ. Along the way, Hellenga unobtrusively enlightens his audience on subjects as diverse as avocado growing, Hindu wedding customs, the eating habits of elephants and the fundamental teachings of great Western philosophers. In Hellenga's able hands the slightly off-kilter world he's created is completely plausible. Although he writes with an often comic sensibility, he's never less than sympathetic to his characters, and their interaction skillfully illumines some of the issues that have puzzled both philosophers and ordinary people since the first human being asked: why am I here? Philosophy Made Simple is a wry and gentle look at one man's search for the meaning of his life. Readers will be enchanted by Rudy's story, and if they're on a quest like his, they shouldn't be surprised to find a tidbit or two that may help light their way. Harvey Freedenberg writes from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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