In Lost and Wanted... Nell Freudenberger joins this august tradition [of integrating sceitific concepts into literature], expanding her stock of metaphors with the language of quantum physics. The effect is beautiful. Freudenberger navigates complicated concepts from physics with admirable clarity, and those concepts — entanglement, uncertainty, gravitational waves — help us feel in new ways the ongoing influence of dormant friendships, the difficulties involved with believing in attachments that can’t be observed, the enduring pull of discarded hopes. In Freudenberger’s hands, long scientific digressions — about the search for the Higgs boson, the existence of dark matter, the collisions of black holes — never feel unnecessary. For one thing, they’re described in splendidly accessible language. For another, our narrator, Helen, is a professor of physics, and this is how she understands the world ... Lost and Wanted is a novel of female friendship without the furious intimacy of, say, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels ... Reading [this novel], I was moved by intimacies near and far, real and imagined, lost and found in all the echoing corners of the expanding universe.
... Freudenberger has crafted a gorgeous literary novel about loss and human limitations ... [A passage included in the review] is a miniature model of Freudenberger’s dazzling writing style in Lost and Wanted ... That [one of the novel's] plot [twists] doesn’t feel contrived or melt into a gooey resolution further demonstrates Freudenberger’s penetrating imagination ... Lost and Wanted ends with its own ingenious version of a 'big bang' that leaves the Helen, our dedicated woman of science, a bit more open to the tantalizing promise of that theological designation.
Sometimes a novel guarantees you a pleasurably mind-bending time just with its opening paragraph. That’s the case with Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted ... [Lost and Wanted] has all the venturesome verve of her debut ... The book also slyly weighs the way we use intuition and intellect to parse our realities ... For most readers, their esoteric vocabulary ('spooky action,' 'globular cluster models') will work more like verbal color than intelligible content. But that doesn’t make the book’s artful parallels between emotional questions and scientific inquiry feel any less urgent ... Freudenberger handles the mystery of where noise fades and pattern emerges brilliantly.
Nell Freudenberger excels at one of fiction's singular strengths — imaginative empathy without borders ... Freudenberger takes another impressive plunge into a different sort of foreign culture: theoretical physics ... Yes, Freudenberger throws a lot of esoteric, sometimes numbing jargon at us. But rest assured that much of it gets translated into more comprehensible terms — and bears more than just metaphoric relevance to her story ... Impressively, Freudenberger avoids a heavy hand in drawing analogies between emotional states and abstruse scientific concepts, taking care to deploy physics as a catalyst for new perspectives on time and our trajectories through it rather than just metaphorical ballast. Enriched by intelligent, multi-level discussions about the spacetime continuum, determinism, whether Einstein believed in God, and cosmic concepts such as entanglements, collisions, interference patterns, uncertainty, and gravity — including, most notably, the force we exert on each other — Lost and Wanted is an undoubtedly brainy book. But Freudenberger's outstanding achievement is that it is also a moving story about down-to-earth issues like grief and loneliness.
... brainy and endearing ... The nerd factor can get exceptionally high in Lost and Wanted, sometimes numbingly so when Helen — a best-selling author of pop-physics books — goes into scientific detail in her narration. It’s much better when she speaks these explanations in Freudenberger’s warm, enlivening dialogue. Helen is stiff by nature, somewhat trapped in her head, which for the reader can be an awkward space. She grows into a deeply sympathetic heroine, though, and in her complexity and conflictedness we see a whole human being ... In the texture of these characters’ lives, Freudenberger tells a story of connections forged and severed, of love orphaned of its object. Lost and Wanted is about having basked in a glow that should have shone so much longer — about not knowing where that light went, or what to do with the black hole it left behind.
The shimmer of illusion has a dissolving effect on the otherwise quotidian world Ms. Freudenberger evokes, and the story stands poised between the known and the provable and theoretical alternate realities. It’s a tough balance to sustain over the course of this slow-moving novel, and as Lost and Wanted advances its sense of mystery retreats. The scenes that keep their freshness, however, involve children, both Simmi and Helen’s young son Jack. Kids are usually patronized in works of fiction, made either adorably naive or preternaturally wise. But in this book they’re on equal footing with the adults, who have no clearer understanding of what awaits us after death than they do. Lost and Wanted is smart about the ways that parents try to explain mortality to children, but it’s also insightful about the ways that children try to illuminate it for them.
Freudenberger employs her distinctive skills — her stylistic restraint, the unmannered quality of her prose — to slightly different effect here [compared to her previous work], relying on a spare, meditative telling in the construction of what amounts to a very interior novel ... Yet for all its fascinating insights, Lost and Wanted lacks cohesion. The emotional momentum that fuels Freudenberger’s best fiction... is absent, replaced by scattered — though certainly potent — profundity ... Indeed, for all the territory that Lost and Wanted covers — from race to gender dynamics to quantum physics to academia to parenthood to the TV business’ ins and outs — it’s ultimately an intimate depiction of the experience of loss. But Freudenberger doesn’t tighten her novel accordingly. Instead, like her brainy hero, she gets lost in her own head.
... a work about cold, hard science that is also a warm and insightful look into human relationships and the mysteries of time ... Refreshingly, the science in Lost and Wanted is never window dressing, as the technical concepts that Freudenberger describes at length are integral to the plot. And the story takes unexpected turns on its way to a heartbreaking conclusion. It is a magnificent novel.
...a dazzling novel ... Charlie is arts, Helen is science; Charlie is black, Helen is white ... That their polarisation does not feel contrived is a testament to Freudenberger’s writing. Helen is a brilliant character, entirely unaware that she keeps at arm’s length the people to whom she is devoted ... One needs to be prepared for such asides as 'previous studies had relied on simplified globular cluster models and assumed a static mass for the black holes in each group' (it is to Freudenberger’s credit that such a sentence began to make sense to me). But the physics pays off in the narrative as a sequence of delicate, apposite metaphors.
There’s a fair amount of spookiness in physics, and the language is seductively poetic. Freudenberger (The Newlyweds, 2012) is exceptionally conversant in this heady realm, and her obvious pleasure in physics...ensures that Helen is a mesmerizing narrator ... Freudenberger is spellbinding in her imaginative use of particle physics as a mirror of human entanglement and uncertainty ... As original as this deeply involving, substantial, suspenseful, and psychologically lush novel is, Freudenberger is in good company in her venture into the curious alignments among physics, memory, sorrow, and the fate of consciousness after death ... With daring, zest, insight, wit, and compassion, Lost and Wanted and its kindred novels gracefully and thrillingly bridge the divide between science and art.
Lost and Wanted sometimes bogs down under the weight of its scientific explanations, but it is most prescient when connecting scientific and metaphysical faith in things that cannot be seen with the naked eye...
... ntelligent and moving ... physics metaphors pervade the book. Freudenberger relies on them heavily as she shapes Helen’s perspective and introduces a variety of well-limned analogies and mini-lessons ... I’m not sure all of the metaphors are sufficient to make for an entirely convincing account of how a scientist sees the world, though I find Helen completely credible as a sometimes overly analytical and self-conscious academic ... Freudenberger is more credible in her portrait of a scientific outlook in her imagination of Helen’s friend and former lover Neel — or at least I think his brand of bringing together philosophy and science works better ... Nonetheless, I give Freudenberger substantial credit for trying on a scientist’s view, and indeed, for making science such a significant part of the novel ... This novel is wonderful, without any condescension, on the energy, intellectual affectation, genuine intellectual curiosity, and exaggerated feeling of youth ... More than anything though, Freudenberger is excellent in her account of female friendships ... It is very hard not to like this ambitious, thoughtful, and philosophical novel right away, and very hard not to be moved by its portrait of grief and of what endures.
Freudenberger’s ability to turn the language of physics into poetic prose delights, and her approach to narration deepens the resonance of the story. She weaves through time effortlessly, detailing experiences Helen and Charlie shared as undergraduates at Harvard at one moment and delving into Helen’s grief about Charlie in the next. Where this fluidity could get confusing or unwieldy in the hands of a lesser writer, Freudenberger displays mastery with her voice, and the novel transcends time but never feels directionless ... Freudenberger’s strong, crisp characterization and nuanced psychological exploration make for intriguing and thought-provoking storytelling.
... Freudenberger set out to show that a novel can ambitiously grapple with enormous and elusive ideas while delving into subtle and nuanced human exchanges like, say, the ambivalent feelings between friends or between between parents and children, which Freudenberger brilliantly captures in dialogue. The novel is replete with pages of explanation of quantum physics that may have some readers who are not well versed in that branch of science either skimming or experiencing some eye-glaze ... We’re meant to see the richly detailed family forces that shaped Charlie, who is black, and Helen, who is white, as they interacted with issues of gender, race and class in this novel’s ambitious look at the gravitational forces Freudenberer’s characters exert on one another.
Lost and Wanted has many strengths — it is, among other things, extraordinarily acute and often moving about the relation between parents and young children — but the end impression is of an artifact polished to a high sheen and then recently air-dropped from some other, less frantic, parallel universe ... Freudenberger, whose previous fiction also feels at times overdetermined, is unwilling to abandon information culled from painstaking research, with the result that her material gets away from her at times ... even more troubling is the way Lost and Wanted continues Freudenberger’s tendency to inhabit the skins, and minds, of people of color. The voicing of borrowed identity lands differently on the mind’s ear than it once did ... I keep flipping through the dog-eared pages of my advance copy in search of things to admire, but instead just finding more reasons to feel sour and pissy.
Complications ensue, though not the predictable soap-opera ones you'd imagine. Freudenberger is good at explaining physics, but her real genius is in the depiction of relationships. Each one in the novel, whether between adults, adults and children, or among children, is unique, finely calibrated, and real ... Brimming with wit and intelligence and devoted to things that matter: life, love, death, and the mysteries of the cosmos.
Freudenberger (The Newlyweds) explores the convergence of scientific rationality and spirituality in this stunning portrayal of grief ... 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 ... a beautiful and moving novel.