Helen and Charlie become entangled at Harvard then spin off to opposing coasts — Charlie landing as a screenwriter in Helen’s hometown of LA and Helen becoming a professor in Boston, near Charlie’s childhood home. Charlie is arts, Helen is science; Charlie is black, Helen is white; Charlie is East Coast, Helen is West. That their polarisation does not feel contrived is a testament to Freudenberger’s writing.
The Book of Science and Antiquities
"It would be a crime to give away anything more, but the end of this beautiful novel made me cry. Jones writes with intelligence and a lively wit, but there’s more — a warmth that forces you to care about these people as if you had met them...."
— The Times
3 out of 5
Acute about children and grief, this multi‑layered narrative tackles a range of meaty subjects — from the age-old conflict between faith and rationalism, to the challenges faced by women in high-flying industries.
Tender, sharply observed and marvellously rich.
According to Helen, what marks out pseudoscience is that “every piece fits neatly inside a theory”, whereas in the real thing nothing is simplified to find “a meaningful pattern”. It is Freudenberger’s similar willingness to accept human contradictions here — and to lay them out with a combination of calm rigour and rueful comedy — that so triumphantly makes Lost and Wanted the real thing too.
US novelist Freudenberger is new to me, although she has picked up major accolades stateside. This, her third novel, is narrated by Helen, a prodigiously gifted professor of physics at MIT and a single mother by choice, who learns that Charlie, her closest friend from university, has died. As she deals with her grief, and that of Charlie's husband and child, she recalls their friendship. Freudenberger weaves Helen's professional life into the narrative, which I found fascinating, but this is ultimately a novel about the emotional forces that act upon us.