BookBrowse Reviews Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellenga

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Philosophy Made Simple

by Robert Hellenga

Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellenga
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2007, 304 pages

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Twinkly humor, mild insight, clean prose and gentle homilies follow in this thinker's light gem. Novel

From the book jacket: From the author of The Sixteen Pleasures comes an unforgettable novel about a man's search for meaning, in the tradition of Louis Begley's About Schmidt and Evan Connell's Mr. Bridge.

Rudy Harrington has spent half his life in a rambling Chicago house, raising three daughters with his independent-minded wife. But his wife has died, his daughters have moved away, and Rudy is restless. In what he interprets as a moment of transcendent vision, he puts the family home up for sale and buys an avocado grove in Texas. While adapting to his new vocation, new home, and new friends, Rudy takes up a book--Philosophy Made Simple--and begins to struggle with Plato and Aristotle, Hume and Schopenhauer. His newly acquired wisdom is put to the test when he enlists the neighborhood elephant to preside over his daughter's Hindu wedding and falls in love with the groom's mother.

Comment: There are plenty of books written from a man's point of view but all too often the growth in the protagonist's character is in direct correlation with the body-count. For me, Philosophy Made Simple stands out because it's written from a man's point of view with a body-count of zero (well, that's not entirely true, a key character does die but not how you'd expect, and I'm not going to tell you who or why as that would spoil the story!)

It's a quietly funny story set in the late 1960s, and very well observed. If you read and enjoyed The Poet of Tolstoy Park or The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, then Robert Hellenga's latest is a shoe-in for you.

"There's nothing whimsical about this solidly grounded fiction, which enchantingly explores the space between philosophical concepts and our hapless floundering in life's challenges." - Kirkus Reviews.

This review was originally published in March 2006, and has been updated for the March 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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