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May 9, 2020

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella ~ a Review

by MK French

Cadence Archer decided to attend Harvard University, even though her older brother Eric had committed suicide while a student there. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had pulled away from his friends and the prestigious award competition that had once meant so much to him. She tried to trace his final year, especially after she started hearing voices herself.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

May 2020; Random House; 978-0525510369
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); ghost thriller
Ghosts of Harvard is a fascinating story, as the voices Cady heard while on Harvard's campus carried all kinds of knowledge that she didn't possess herself. One belonged to a slave that had been owned by a former Harvard president, one to a man following his father's footsteps to join the Navy preceding WWII, and one belonged to a man torn between his love of science and poetry. They each have their own stories, and she interacts with them even as she fears it signals her own descent into psychosis. At the same time, her older brother's work in physics had once carried importance and could have been worth killing for.

I appreciate the delicate way that Eric's illness is described, and the efforts that Francesca made to research the topic and learn how families cope. The mental health field can be difficult to navigate, and it's often hard to realize that those with psychosis aren't the violent entities that people fear. The disconnect with reality often leaves the person frightened and confused; paranoia at every turn means that family members who should be a comfort aren't any longer, and they're alone with their misery and insecurity. This is highlighted in Cady's memories of Eric in his final months, as well as the fact that he was still just as brilliant as he had been prior to his deterioration.

The mystery behind Eric's studies, why he died, and what the ghosts were all weave together in a fascinating way. I have such a sense of the campus as I read this book so that Cady's journey through the halls is like being given a guided tour. There are kind professors who really try to guide students as well as teach them, even without the mention of her brother's suicide. There are also professors so full of their own importance that they would target those same students that need their guidance. Very much like real life, I suppose, and I really hope that Francesca didn't draw on personal experience for that professor. The students themselves run the gamut, so that they aren't as much caricatures as that professor, and provide a backdrop to Cady's struggles.

I was really drawn into this story and was surprised at the twists that came throughout the text. It was so enthralling that I couldn't even come up with a coherent reply to "What are you reading?" at home and just went "Book" without even looking up. I'm not normally like that with family; I try to explain the plot and get them to read it with me, too. Have time set aside to read this, you won't want to put it down.

Buy Ghosts of Harvard at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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