Nell Freudenberger is the author of the novels The Newlyweds and The Dissident, and of the story collection Lucky Girls. In Lost and Wanted (Knopf) we meet Helen Clapp. Her breakthrough work on five-dimensional spacetime landed her a tenured professorship at MIT; her popular books explain physics in plain terms. Helen disdains notions of the supernatural. She prefers rational thought and proven ideas. So it’s especially vexing for her when, on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday in June, she gets a phone call from Charlotte Boyce, a friend and Helen’s roommate at Harvard, who has just died. They once shared Helen’s struggles as a young woman in science, Charlie’s as a black screenwriter in Hollywood, their challenges as parents. But over time, Charlie became more elusive, and her calls came less and less often. And now she’s permanently, tragically gone.
As Helen is drawn back into Charlie’s orbit, and also into the web of feelings she once had for a former college classmate now, she is forced to question the laws of the universe that had always steadied her mind and heart. Richard Powers in The New York Times Book Review called it “A marvelous depiction of the direct link between the body’s cravings and the passions of the mind.”