Lost and Wanted: Nell Freudenberger


Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted is the haunting story of a physicist whose best friend dies of complications from lupus, and the ways in which she and her friend’s family mourn, hope, and grow.

Lost and Wanted, Nell Freudenberger

Thank you to A.A. Knopf for the advanced copy!

Helen is a physicist at MIT, spending her days theorizing about the laws of space and time. As an undergrad at Harvard twenty years ago, she met her best friend Charlie, a literature major with dreams of acting and screenwriting. Their connection was unlike anything she’d ever experienced previously or would ever experience again, but they lost consistent touch after graduation.

When Charlie dies, Helen begins receiving confusing emails and texts from her phone, which has been lost since her death. As a physicist, Helen knows that ghosts don’t exist and that this couldn’t possibly be Charlie, but as a mourning best friend, this is an odd, unbelievable glimmer of hope.

Freudenberger tells a beautiful, haunting story full of fascinating tidbits of physics, musings on the universe, and the painful process of mourning but continuing to survive; a story deeply rooted in the past and that constantly informs the present and future.

Content Warning

Please take caution while reading Lost and Wanted if any of the following topics may trigger you:

  • Self-harm / suicide
  • Death or dying
  • Pregnancy / childbirth

My Thoughts

I keep using the word “haunting” to describe Lost and Wanted, but only because it’s seriously the perfect word for it! There is such a fine and fascinating line between the rationality of physics and the hopefulness of someone reaching out to you from the afterlife here; one that gave me chills more than once.

Physics is a huge part of this book. Don’t worry – I’m not a physics buff; I almost failed my first and only science class in college. It was fascinating and added wonderful depth to the story – I very rarely felt bogged down by the scientific descriptions that Helen provided throughout the narrative.

There is so much more than just physics in this story, though. A few of the themes Freudenberger touches on are: love, friendship, mother- and fatherhood, career ambitions, and mortality. One of my favorite aspects of the story was Helen’s relationship with her son. She’s so rational in her parenting – she understands her son completely and treats him with respect and understanding. He’s so smart and silly; I just love his character, as well as the other child – Charlies daughter.

Lost and Wanted is so unique and profoundly interesting – both in terms of the discussion and theorization of the universe and the relationships between the dynamic, complicated characters. You’ll especially love this story if you’re interested physical concepts like space and time, but I think there’s something her for everyone , and I highly recommend it!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Lost and Wanted. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya.

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