A Harvard freshman becomes obsessed with her schizophrenic brother’s suicide. Then she starts hearing voices.
“A rich, intricately plotted thriller . . . Serritella, who is a Harvard grad herself, writes about the campus with an insider’s savvy.”—Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
“Every time I thought I knew where Ghosts of Harvard was heading, I turned out to be wrong. Part mystery, part ghost story, part psychological thriller, this novel is all entertainment.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult
Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.
As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? Voices fill her head, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who passed through the university in life, or death, and whose voices, dreams, and terrors still echo the halls. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.
Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction?
Serritella debuts with a brisk, entertaining coming-of-age story about a young woman trying simultaneously to find out who she is and uncover the truth about her brother's death. Cady Archer begins her studies at Harvard University less than a year after the death of her older brother, Eric, a Harvard student and the golden child of the family whose schizophrenia has long been a source of trouble in Cady's life. She and her parents have been devastated by his suicide, and now Cady wants to know what happened and what her brother's life was like at Harvard. Using one of Eric's cryptic notebooks like a treasure map, Cady wanders the campus and talks with Nikos, her brother's friend, and Mikaela Prokop, his faculty advisor, who explain how he stopped taking medication as he became increasingly dedicated to his physics research on entanglement theory. Her desire for resolution also sparks an interest in geocaching (scavenger hunts based on GPS locating) and she begins to hear voices: first, one that helps her out in a history class; and then one that helps her escape a rapist. Serritella has a wonderful touch for her secondary characters there's a Professor Hines who is a note-perfect caricature of a tenured Harvard professor and Cady herself has a great voice. Readers of campus mysteries will love this surprising and intricate bildungsroman. \n
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What a full, rich, marvelous story!
I have enjoyed author Francesca Serritella’s essays and articles for years, so I expected good, solid, thoughtful writing in Ghosts of Harvard. But I have to admit I did not expect the depth and nuance, the brilliantly crafted characters, or the full, rich, fascinating history of Harvard. Or the ghost story that was so magnificently overlaid on and seamlessly woven in throughout Cady’s story. This is a book about family, about the strength Cady displays in even going to Harvard after her brother Eric committed suicide there, about Cady’s hope to find answers that might bring her family back to some kind of normal, and about her almost numbing fear that those answers might be too awful for her to live with. The story is populated with a vivid array of characters, some good, some bad, some real, some possibly imagined, and a surprising amount of action and suspense. Cady is in real danger at times.
Ghosts of Harvard has many layers and multiple plotlines. There were a couple of characters that I didn’t like or trust from the start, so of course as the story neared its end I thought “Aha! I’ve figured it out, I knew this was the case.” Well, I shouldn’t have been so smug. Author Serritella introduces twists and turns and unexpected behavior and events and links that you won’t see until the very satisfying ending.
Thanks to author Francesca Serritella and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of Ghosts of Harvard for my reading pleasure and honest review. All opinions are my own. This is an amazing book that is so engaging, so engrossing, so fulfilling that you won’t be able to put it down. You will be on Cady’s side from the start, especially when you realize how young and brave and determined she is and her memories of Eric will make you tear up and miss him as much as she does. I thoroughly enjoyed Ghosts of Harvard and recommend it without hesitation. I hope this is the first of many masterpieces from Francesca Serritella.