Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord

Hector and the Search for HappinessHector is a psychiatrist who is fairly content in his own life. But he is confused by many of his patients, who seem to have everything — good jobs, healthy families, plenty of money — but are, nevertheless, unhappy. This puzzle spurs Hector on a quest to find the source of happiness. Hector travels from his home in Paris to China, Africa, and L.A. to learn what makes people happy.

In China, he reunites with an old friend who is wealthy and successful, but not particularly happy. He meets with an old monk who has found the secret of happiness, but is very enigmatic about it with Hector. And, though Hector is living with a woman he loves at home, he falls in love with another beautiful woman.

In Africa, Hector reunites with another friend who is a doctor and providing services to poor women and their children, and who is very happy in life. It is here in Africa that he is kidnapped and faces death (but don’t worry, he is released!) and meets a family that has almost nothing but each other, and who are very happy in life.

Finally, he travels to the country of MORE (U.S.) where he visits a former lover, now friend, who takes him to a famous university to visit with a professor who life study is focused on understanding happiness. Through all of his travels, Hector learns more about himself and begins to unravel the “mystery” of happiness.

This beautiful parable is written in a deceivingly simplistic way — as a story told to a young child. The pared-down style reduces certain small truths to their most profound essences and throws them into bright and shiny relief. What is happiness The discussions about this deceptively simple question will keep book clubs talking for hours.

Penguin; ISBN 978-0-14311-839-8; $14.
Hector and the Search for Happiness: Reading Guide

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