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Ghosts of Harvard Bets On...

Ghosts of Harvard

May 2020

GHOSTS OF HARVARD by Francesca Serritella is set at Harvard University, where Cady has just started freshman year. Heading to Harvard was a big deal for her family. The spring before, her brother, Eric, who suffered from schizophrenia, died by suicide there. So naturally, while she's there, the impact of losing him is very fresh on her mind. Cady is trying to figure out why he made the choice to take his life; to do that, she’s tracking down his friends and others who knew him. There are many times when she questions her own sanity as she navigates his world. There are some voices she's hearing that make little sense to her, until she listens closely to what they have to say and later what their presence meant to her.

The book unpacks a lot about the impact that a death by suicide has on a family. The world revolved around Eric; he was the shining star. And when his light went out, the family became unmoored. What was left behind is very much at the heart of this story.

The ending is realistic instead of gratuitous. And that worked for me in this tight, fresh and very accomplished debut novel. Francesca wanted to write something different, and she did; it’s hard to classify this book in one genre. Also, she went to Harvard, and it’s written with the eye of someone who walked the paths there and sat in those buildings. Francesca is known for her humorous essays that appear in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the humorous essay collection books that she writes with her mother, Lisa Scottoline. This is very different, and makes me look forward to seeing what she writes next. There is lots here for book groups to discuss!

Ghosts of Harvard
by Francesca Serritella