Rudy Harrington 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 staying in his rambling Midwestern house.
So a new life it is. Rudy heads off for a part of the world where he knows scarcely a soul. But he has a guide: a slender book called Philosophy Made Simple, each chapter highlighting the ideas of a different philosopher. No amount of Plato, Schopenhauer, or Sartre, however, 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 and who leads him, ultimately, toward the prospect of a new love.