cover image Lost and Wanted

Lost and Wanted

Nell Freudenberger. Knopf, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-35268-0

Freudenberger (The Newlyweds) explores the convergence of scientific rationality and spirituality in this stunning portrayal of grief. Helen is an MIT physics professor of some renown—known as much for her accessible science writing as for the theoretical model that bears her name. A single mother by choice, Helen, now in her mid-40s, is shaken to learn of the death of her best friend, Charlie Boyce, a successful screenwriter whom she met when they were undergraduates at Harvard. As Helen grapples with her own regrets about having fallen out of touch with Charlie, she and her seven-year-old son, Jack, become increasingly close with Charlie’s husband and five-year-old daughter, Simmi. The children are desperate for a supernatural connection to the deceased; Helen is skeptical—except for the fact that she continues receiving eerily knowing text messages from Charlie’s cell phone. Like her narrator, Freudenberger resists the impulse to use science solely as metaphor; indeed, readers will learn a great deal about the LIGO project and its Nobel Prize–winning work with cosmic gravitational waves. The integration of ideas from physics sparks in the reader new ways of thinking about the nature of time and existence as well as, on a less cosmic scale, about human relationships. Helen’s journey through grief and understanding illustrates how one person can represent many things to different people at different times, and her story is about grief not only at the loss of her friend but also at the demise of countless possible futures. This is a beautiful and moving novel. (Apr.)