Hector and the Search for Happiness is a short book about a successful psychiatrist who finds himself dissatisfied because many of his patients, though there is nothing significantly wrong with their lives, are simply unhappy, and he can’t seem to fix them. Hector becomes very interested in happiness and how it works; what makes people happy and why is it seemingly unachievable by so many of his otherwise healthy patients? One day, Hector decides to go on a vacation- he will travel across the world, trying to figure out what makes people happy.
His search brings Hector through a busy metropolis in China, an unspecified country in Africa where people have very little, and the imaginary country of More, where there is more of everything. He meets a young Chinese woman and falls in love, a man who moved to Africa so he could farm harmful substances without risking arrest, a professor of happiness studies, and a monk who, despite everything, laughs quite a lot.
This is a quick novel- I got the large print edition (I’m not entirely sure how that happened, as I don’t particularly like reading large print books), and it was still under 200 pages. The writing is somewhere between novel, fairytale, and documentary. There is very little dialogue and a lot of, “Djamila told Hector about the time that~” etc. Generally it’s not a style that I find interesting, but in this case it seemed fitting- even the large print seemed suited to the book after a few pages.
Most importantly, this is a book that makes you think. Hector is trying to unravel the secrets of happiness. As he travels, he takes notes in the form of lessons, such as “Lesson no. 15: Happiness comes when you feel truly alive.” and “Lesson no. 7: It’s a mistake to think that Happiness is the goal.” (We’re not actually supposed to understand Lesson no. 7, I think. Hector doesn’t.) So it’s a very interesting book to read. It reminds me of this book one of sisters bought for another of my sisters, The Pig of Happiness, which is essentially about this pig who decides to be cheerful all the time and try to see the good in everything, and eventually his cheer rubs off on the other pigs. One of Hector’s lessons is, “Lesson no. 23: Happiness means making sure those around you are happy.”
I enjoyed this book because I enjoyed Hector’s perspective on happiness. I feel like it might be a good one to reread at some point. And, since it is very quick, I suggest you give it a few hours of your time. I think it’s worth it.