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Ghosts of Harvard


Ghosts of Harvard

Eric Archer was a standout student at Harvard, until the day he took his own life. Now his sister, Cadence, wants to know why. She has been accepted as a freshman this year, much to her parents’ horror, and is determined to attend. Eric was her idol. They had a relationship as brother and sister that most families would envy. And now he’s gone, leaving a gaping hole in her heart.

Cady settles in at Harvard, armed with myriad questions and a blue notebook Eric left behind. Making sense of his scribblings, though, might be impossible. In his last days, he was very sick, a diagnosed schizophrenic. Were these notes the ramblings of a deranged mind, or some ingenious message, one meant for her? Cady struggles to see much other than gibberish.

"...a stunning debut... Francesca Serritella...spent a decade writing this book, the result being a thoroughly enjoyable read and a unique cross-genre experience not to be missed."

Maybe getting to know some of Eric’s friends, classmates, professors and his roommate will provide valuable clues. These people should have the best handle on who he was and how he approached life on campus. Before long, she meets a handsome, flirtatious student named Nikos. He says that he and Eric were competing for the prestigious Bauer Award until Eric dropped out suddenly. Cady wonders why her brother quit, and pursues Nikos for answers. And if a little romance happens, that wouldn’t be so bad either.

College life at Harvard comes with many pressures, and Cady has the added pressure of her brother’s suicide weighing on her. Plus, she must prove to her parents that she made the right decision when she chose Harvard. But when she begins to hear voices, she fears that Eric’s schizophrenia might be her future, too. Maybe she has put herself in the worst possible danger on this campus. However, these voices seem more like the voices of real people, not something her mind is making up. And it doesn’t feel like they want to hurt her. In fact, they help her out in some tricky situations. When Cady delves deeper, she finds actual history on these people, connected to Harvard’s past. Why are they speaking to her, though?

Exploring the idea in a roundabout fashion with one of Eric’s professors, Cady formulates the theory that there might be a way the past folds over the present somehow. She never sees the “ghosts,” only hears them, and they exist in their own time while she stays in the present. That doesn’t seem possible, but then people have long had trouble completely grasping the concept of time. Fortunately, Cady’s “friends” lead her to new understandings, steer her away from danger, and aid in her search for the truth about Eric. Sometimes, though, we don’t like the answers we find.

GHOSTS OF HARVARD is a stunning debut, an intellectually crafted mystery that addresses suicide and its effect on the “survivors.” This story also takes readers around the stately Harvard campus, one that predates our country, and shows off some of its history --- in truth, a little shocking at points. Francesca Serritella --- a Harvard graduate herself who has written numerous essay collections with her mother, bestselling author Lisa Scottoline --- spent a decade writing this book, the result being a thoroughly enjoyable read and a unique cross-genre experience not to be missed.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on May 8, 2020

Ghosts of Harvard
by Francesca Serritella