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Hector and the Search for Lost Time Reader’s Guide

By Francois Lelord

Hector and the Search for Lost Time by Francois Lelord


Questions and Topics for Discussion


The third book in the acclaimed Hector series finds the titular hero in the throes of contemplation. Nearing middle age, he’s settled in with his longtime girlfriend Clara but they are still deciding whether or not to marry and have children. Hector finds that most of his patients these days are equally concerned about the passage of time: There’s the overworked mother who suspects that life is just a big con, the loner who measures out his life in terms of his dog’s lifetimes, the little boy who wants the hours to speed up, and the woman who’s deathly afraid of losing her looks. Questions echo in Hector’s mind as he tries to figure out how to help them and reconcile his own growing worries.

In the meantime, one of Hector’s acquaintances, an old monk who lives in China, seems to have disappeared. Looking for answers about the monk, Hector consults with mutual friend Édouard, who’s now stationed in an Inuit village in the Arctic. Édouard introduces him to a shaman who shows Hector how to travel through time to an alternate reality in the future, one where he doesn’t marry Clara. On the shaman’s advice he reluctantly goes to China to try to find the monk, though he regrets leaving Clara behind and worries about his ability to stay faithful to her. In China, he meets new friends, Trevor and Katherine, an elderly couple who have been married over forty years, and he also reconnects with Ying Li, an old flame who is now married with children.

With no sign of the monk, Hector follows the shaman’s prompting to a Mediterranean island where he sits in on a conference about the nature of time and observes the local people who all seem to age happily and gracefully. A chance meeting and another strange dream show him that he’s known all along where the monk was.

As Hector’s journey takes him around the world, he reaps the collective wisdom of ancient cultures that have already grappled with the search for time. All the while, he continues to collect insights and develop exercises based on his discoveries. The only question, of course, is whether he can take his own advice.

With this profound and engaging fable, psychiatrist and self–help author François Lelord delivers another charming adventure for his naive but well–meaning protagonist.



François Lelord has had a successful career as a psychiatrist in France and the United States. He is the coauthor of a number of bestselling self–help books and has consulted for companies interested in reducing stress for their employees. Since the enormous success of Hector and the Search for Happinessin France and abroad, he has written three subsequent books about Hector’s journeys.


  • What event(s) sets Hector off on his search for lost time?

  • Many of Hector’s patients and friends are worried about getting older. What do they do to try to cope with their fears?

  • Throughout the book, Hector maintains a list of exercises for understanding time. Which of these was your favorite, and why?

  • Hector travels to new as well as familiar destinations in this book. Where does he go and why? 5. Why is Clara upset and what is she worried about?

  • When he starts thinking about the people he knows, Hector poses this question: “Is it better to fight against time, to slow it down by trying to act as if you were still young, to act as if time wasn’t passing, or rather accept that it is passing, that you can’t do anything about it, and that you’d be better off thinking about something else? Or a little bit of everything all at once?” (p. 38). How would you answer this question? How does Hector ultimately answer this question?

  • Hector has several interesting dreams over the course of the story. How do they shape his journey and his understanding of time?

  • What does Hector learn from his patients about time and how it can impact human happiness?

  • The missing monk is an important source of wisdom. What does Hector finally learn when he finds him?

  • In discovering the “secrets” of time, Hector comes to make some important decisions about his own life. What does he decide and what makes him choose that path?
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