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Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger

Literary fiction

Lost and Wanted

by Nell Freudenberger

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Quick take

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

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Psychological

    Psychological

  • Illustrated icon, Slow_Build

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Nonlinear_Timeline

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Brainy

    Brainy

Synopsis

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.

Free sample

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

Lost and Wanted

Entanglement

1.

In the first few months after Charlie died, I began hearing from her much more frequently. This was even more surprising than it might have been, since Charlie wasn’t a good correspondent even when she was alive.

I should say right away that I don’t believe in ghosts—although I’ve learned that forty-five percent of Americans do—at least not in the sense of the glaucous beings who appear on staircases, in abandoned farmyards, or on the film or digital records of events that absolutely did not include, say, a brown dog in the lower left-hand corner, or a man standing behind the altar in a black hood.

Charlie died in Los Angeles, on a Tuesday night in June. I was in Boston and I didn’t know; we hadn’t spoken for over a year. People talk about a cold wind, or a pain in the chest, but I didn’t feel anything like that. On Wednesday at about noon, my phone rang. Or rather, I happened to be looking through my bag for my wallet, and I saw that the screen was illuminated: “Charlie.” I grabbed the phone and answered before I could think any of the obvious things, such as why pick up right away or it’s been more than a year or what are you to her anymore?

“Charlie?”

I heard a shuffling, something lightweight falling to the floor. Empty boxes, maybe.

I said her name again, and then I lost the call. I called her back, but no one picked up. I felt foolish and unaccountably disappointed. I vowed that if she tried again, I wouldn’t pick up. I would wait a few days before deciding whether I even wanted to call her back.

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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.

Member ratings (2,133)

  • 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.

    Brooklyn, 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.

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Real Americans
Wellness
Margo’s Got Money Troubles
Same As It Ever Was
Annie Bot
Mercury
True Biz
The Husbands
The Lady Waiting
The Other Valley
Hard by a Great Forest
Good Material
The Bullet Swallower
Alice Sadie Celine
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Banyan Moon
Shark Heart
Transcendent Kingdom
Hello Beautiful
Dominicana
What's Mine and Yours
The Unsettled
Ask Again, Yes
Vladimir
Infinite Country
The Prophets
Normal People
The Verifiers
Salvage the Bones
The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
I Have Some Questions for You
Black Buck
The History of Love
Age of Vice
Paper Names
The Light Pirate
The Secret History
The Kite Runner
Memorial
The Half Moon
Happiness Falls
The Gifted School
The Death of Vivek Oji
The Knockout Queen
Little Monsters
Yerba Buena
Beautiful World, Where Are You
Free Food for Millionaires
A Burning
The Mothers
The Water Dancer
Small Country
The Sympathizer
Fleishman Is in Trouble
Lot
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The Animators
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Exit West
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White Fur
Woman No. 17
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
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Golden Child
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& Sons
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