Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellenga

Cover Image

Book flap: Rudy Harrington, an avocado dealer in Chicago, is ready for a new life. His daughters are grown, his wife has died, and the idea of running an avocado grove in Texas suddenly seems infinitely more appealing than the rambling house and the wholesale produce business that have sustained him so far.
So a new life it is. Rudy leaves home and heads for a part of the world where he knows scarcely a soul. But he has a guide: a slender book one of his daughters has given him called Philosophy Made Simple, each chapter highlighting the ideas of a different philosopher. As he plunges into his unknown future, Rudy meets his challenges philosopher by philosopher, beginning with Plato and Aristotle and ending with Schopenhauer and Sartre.
But no amount of philosophy can prepare Rudy for the surprises that emerge as he arranges for his daughter’s Hindu wedding and gets to know Norma Jean – an elephant with a talent for painting who is abandoned to Rudy’s care. Norma Jean’s vast heart opens up Rudy’s spirit and leads to his encounter with an extraordinary woman and the prospect of a new love.
Several weeks ago I noticed a book being given away on several book blogs. That book is The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga. It sounded interesting so I entered a few of the give-aways. I read that it is a sequel to The Sixteen Pleasures which I found at my local library. After reading that book I learned that Hellenga wrote a book called Philosophy Made Simple that included characters from The Sixteen Pleasures. Rudy is the father of the main character in The Sixteen Pleasures.

I really enjoyed reading about Rudy and his quest to find meaning in his life – before and after his wife died. This would be a wonderful discussion book for a club. Would I do things differently or the same as Rudy? Do men and women handle life-changing events differently? Do we let life happen to us? Do we have a choice? Do omens really mean anything? These are all questions I thought about while reading this book. Serious topics but written with humor and compassion. I’m glad I ‘found’ this book. And I’m glad the book included an elephant named Norma Jean. If you’re looking for a book that’s a little different from your usual fare, give this a try.