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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



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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Free sample

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

Why I love it

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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Member ratings (2,091)

  • Grace G.

    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.

  • Jessica B.

    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

  • Hope M.

    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.

  • Brittany M.

    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!

  • Elizabeth M.

    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.