Saturday, July 4, 2020

Review: Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

A Harvard freshman becomes obsessed with her schizophrenic brother’s suicide. Then she starts hearing voices.

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? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. 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?

Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 5th 2020
by Random House
4/5 stars

Have you ever seen a book and just by the title know you want to read it? That gut instinct that triggers something. That’s the way it was for me with this book, then a couple of zoom meetings with various authors clinched it.

Coming in at 480 pages it's a size I can sink my teeth into. There is time to develop characters, create the setting with depth and cast suspicions all around. So yes Ghosts is a slow burn that managed to keep my attention and bond with Cady.

Ghosts of Harvard is a book about grief and the different ways people handle it. For Cady she wanted to walk in her brother’s footsteps at Harvard, feel his experiences but she got way more than she bargained for. There is suspicion, mystery, healing and family drama that make this a well-rounded story. Oh and one can’t forget about the ghosts, who doesn’t love a good ghosty story?

Mental illness does take center stage here. As someone that has little experience with it I always appreciate the reminder of how it affects individuals, family, friends and society. 

Ten years in the making this is a solid debut for Francesca Serritella - though she has written nonfiction and collaborated with her mother Lisa Scottoline. I'm looking forward to reading more in the future.

My copy obtained from the public library in print form - been craving print format these days.

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