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Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger
Literary fiction

Lost and Wanted

by Nell Freudenberger

Quick take

A genre-bending novel of love, loss, and 5D spacetime.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Psychological


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Brainy


Illustrated icon, Icon_VeryChallenging_Indicator

Challenging read

This is a slower read that is more about in-depth scientific concepts and less about an action-oriented plot.

Why I love it

Siobhan Jones
BOTM Editorial Team

Before we get into everything that makes this book so great, our editorial team wants to be clear on one thing: Lost and Wanted is a very challenging, occasionally slow-going literary work that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s also quite brilliant but, well, you’ve been warned.

The story follows Helen Clapp, a physicist and single mom whose work on astrophysics has garnered her tenure at MIT, a handful of book deals, and … perhaps fewer close relationships than she had anticipated. So she’s surprised when she receives a text from Charlie, her enigmatic best friend from college with whom she’s fallen out of touch. Surprised, also, because Charlie has recently passed away.

Where is this going? Not where you think (hint: there's no time travel). Lost and Wanted is a complex book, and its many storylines function less as plot points than as wormholes to a web of fascinating cerebral digressions. You get the sense that the narrator, Helen, wants to both tell the story and keep the reader at a distance—and all that space (no pun intended) provides ample room for your own imagination to rush in. A great book for an afternoon of mind expansion, this is a read for those reaching for the stars.

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Helen Clapp is a physics professor. She doesn't believe in pseudoscience, or time travel, and especially not in ghosts. So when she gets a missed call from Charlie, her closest friend from university with whom she hasn't spoken in over a year, Helen thinks there must be some mistake. Because Charlie died two days ago.

Then when her young son, Jack, claims to have seen Charlie in their house just the other day, Helen begins to have doubts.

Through the grief of the husband and daughter Charlie left behind, Helen is drawn into the orbit of Charlie's world, slotting in the missing pieces of her friend's past. And, as she delves into the web of their shared history, Helen finds herself entangled in the forgotten threads of her own life.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Lost and Wanted.

Member thoughts

All (1806)
All (1806)
Love (489)
Like (920)
Dislike (397)
1927 ratings
  • 25% Love
  • 48% Like
  • 21% Dislike
  • Malden, MA

    This book isn’t about science, so don’t let the science scare you away. It’s really a love story, with a bit of a mystery thrown in. And the main character, Helen, is sympathetic if a little awkward.

  • Oxford, PA

    I LOVED this book. I read it in about 8 hours and was fully engrossed in the story. The nerdy science paired with the emotional struggles of grief and the little mini, spooky mystery was the perfect combo

  • Conifer, CO

    Loved this so much. I’m not sure why there was a “warning” about this being a difficult read or a slow start, I found myself immersed completely from first page to last. Loved everything about it.

  • New York, NY

    The protagonist’s character development is crafted so you fall deep into her world-sympathizing with her, rooting for her-and this novel is anything but predictable. Every reveal comes as a surprise!

  • Ventura, CA

    I loved the thoughtful and philosophical pace of this book. The twisting timelines and all of the physics discussions — it was a book that took me awhile to read, and that I wanted to read for awhile.

  • Rochester, MN

    Based on the first sentence, this novel did not travel the trajectory I anticipated. I related to Helen on so many levels. Definitely a slow burn with a sprinkle of mystery, grief, love, and physics.

  • Milford, OH

    There is a lot of quantum physics in this book but you don't need to get the science to enjoy it. BTW, the science is very good. My only beef is with Helen's precocious son - never quite believed him.

  • Wauwatosa, WI

    The first part of the book was a little slow and focused a lot on physics, but after that I absolutely loved it. It was so different than I expected, and gave me a lot to think about after I finished.

  • Ann Arbor, MI

    I absolutely adored this book. It wasn't exactly what I expected, but the main character & her relationship with her friend was so compelling that I was hooked immediately. Absolutely incredible story

  • Perkasie, PA

    Not challenging read like BOTM warning. Wonderfully written story about a woman reflecting on a friendship and how her life is influenced by her friend, past and present. Joy to read, science included

  • Chicago, IL

    This is a challenging read, but I absolutely love this book. It is thoughtful and though provoking, taking the reader on a journey through friendship & loss. I highly recommend for those interested.


    If you love the intersection of the supernatural and quantum physics, you will LOVE this book, as I did. Some of the characters are quite complex, and you may not be sure if you like them till the end

  • Milton, MA

    Loved it. Actually an easy read, with physics concepts throughout. Beautiful portrayal of love and loss (unquantifiable emotions) juxtaposed with the search for hard data to understand the universe.

  • Waukesha, WI

    The science was beautifully explained so if that's holding you back from reading this book, don't let it. It's a beautiful story of friendship and loss and how grief can affect everyone differently.

  • Burdett, NY

    Helen, a tenured physics professor at MIT, hears from Charlotte, her best friend from college after a long silence—but she learns Charlotte died before the message was sent. I loved the characters.

  • Portland, OR

    One of my favorite reads this year. Well developed characters, beautiful writing. There are many books about love and loss, but Lost and Wanted stands out and approaches these themes in a unique way.

  • Rockwall, TX

    This book was written like the voice in my head. I was immersed in the story-telling from start to end. The ending was lack-luster, but all-in-all it felt right. I recommend this book to the curious.

  • El Paso, TX

    Absolutely beautiful book that makes one question our own existence through the intertwining of philosophical and scientific prose. Such an elegant story unfolds about the wonders of the universe.


    Not really about science or ghosts, it's about all the things we don't yet understand and how we deal with that limited understanding. Thought-provoking and also comforting to me, I loved this story!

  • Apex, NC

    A beautifully written novel about best friends, Helen and Charlie, who were roommates at Harvard. Then Charlie dies and Helen gets a phone call from her! Will this change how Physicist Helen thinks?

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