cover image Philosophy Made Simple

Philosophy Made Simple

Robert Hellenga, . . Little, Brown, $23.95 (277pp) ISBN 978-0-316-05826-1

Riffing off his charming 1994 debut, The Sixteen Pleasures , Hellenga shifts perspective from father to daughter, detailing the former's postmarital adventures as he plans the latter's wedding. It's been seven years since the death of Rudy Harrington's beloved wife, Helen; his three daughters have flown the coop; and the time is ripe to sell his Chicago home of 30 years and buy an avocado grove in Texas. He's also been reading the college-level text Philosophy Made Simple by Siva Singh, his daughter Molly's fiancé's uncle, sparking a previously latent interest in life's big questions. Rudy attempts, at 60, to adjust to single life while singlehandedly planning an Indian wedding for Molly to Singh's nephew, TJ. His grove manager, Medardo, takes him on weekend trips to a Mexican gentleman's club; there, he meets Maria, an employee with a penchant for weakhearted middle-aged men. A denizen of a nearby trailer park is Norma Jean, a lovable elephant with a tremendous talent for painting. When Molly, TJ, Siva and Nandini (Siva's sister and TJ's mother) arrive, Nandini is as taken with Norma Jean, whose owner is suddenly MIA, as is Rudy. More twinkly humor, mild insight, clean prose and gentle homilies follow in this thinker's light gem. (Mar. 8)