Barely adequate philosophy professor Legare Hume has a mind-body problem. No matter how far he goes, no matter how hard he thinks, he can’t escape the world he lives in. On the run from his wife Tally, Legare joins brilliant but exceptionally awkward colleague Saul Grossman to attend the American Philosophical Association’s Charleston, South Carolina conference, where worlds and walks of life collide in a strange and satirical amalgamation that can only be described as reality.
Legare’s mission is simple enough: put up with the conference, read a paper he never thought anyone would want to hear, receive the tenure he isn’t sure he wants, and return, or not, to the wife who nearly killed him before he left. But his plans are hijacked by a botched hotel reservation and the all-too-convenient presence of the Southern family Legare has worked very hard all his adult life to avoid.
Circumstances--namely, the inconvenient death of a mentally challenged uncle--bring the whole family together: Mama and the Old Man, his backwards but well-meaning parents; too-religious Aunt Arlene and irritating Uncle Spessard; and Uncle Rembert, whose shady goings-on may force Legare to actually take action for once in his passive life. The only two family members he can tolerate are his sensible sister Willie, and her endearing son Unitas.
Meanwhile, wrestlers in the guise of religious figures enact the Apocalypse. Wrestlers philosophize and philosophers wrestle. The mind-body argument is solved, then unsolved, then solved again. Dismantled theories are defended at gunpoint. Philosophical celebrities are created through competitive tic-tac-toe matches.
And through it all, there’s Lucian, Legare’s late brother, who killed himself years ago. What does his death mean? What’s the family secret Legare has been hiding from? What’s there to learn from this rapid-fire collision of worlds, where all kinds of people and all kinds of views are inherently and bizarrely connected? And what will it take for Legare to be both in and of the world?