Serritella, Francesca, “Ghosts of Harvard: A Novel”, Random House, 2020.
A Brother’s Suicide
In Francesca Serritella’s “Ghosts of Harvard” a Harvard freshman becomes obsessed with her schizophrenic brother’s suicide. Then she starts hearing voices. Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus needing to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric left a hole in Cady’s life, and even though her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to tear her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. The only one place to find answers is at Harvard.
As Cadence deals with enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year. She only has a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but had no idea what pushed him over the edge. Her head is filled with voices that seemingly belong to three ghosts who passed through the university in life or death and whose voices and dreams and fears still echo in Harvard’s halls. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name will never be forgotten.
Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her but she is drawn deeper into their worlds and she believes that they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even if she has go keep them as secret causing her isolation. At the center is the suicide and how the family of the victim struggles to cope and understand. Cady panics as she realizes that her brother also had voices in his head. She worries that genetics may be doing the same to her. However, the voices she hears tell her things that are historically true. I read the book with compulsion enjoying the many themes of
mystery, history, schizophrenia, academia, family background, secrets, grief, college life, suicide and the supernatural..
The descriptions are exceptional especially those of Harvard.The novel is beautifully written and well-researched. Since the author is a Harvard graduate, she really knew what she was writing about. We have palpable tension and twists and surprises throughout the story. The characters are craftily created and I was sorry when I closed the covers. I wanted more.