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Ghosts of Harvard

A Novel
Written by: Francesca Serritella
Narrated by: Karissa Vacker
Length: 16 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Teen Vogue Book Club Pick

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

"A rich, intricately plotted thriller.... Serritella, who is a Harvard grad herself, writes about the campus with an insider’s savvy.” (Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post)

"Every time I thought I knew where Ghosts of Harvard was heading, I turned out to be wrong. Part mystery, part ghost story, part psychological thriller, this novel is all entertainment." (Jodi Picoult, number one New York Times best-selling author)

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? Voices fill her head, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who passed through the university in life, or death, and whose voices, dreams, and terrors still echo the halls. 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?

©2020 Francesca Serritella (P)2020 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"Ghosts of Harvard is written with a masterly, focused hand, belying the fact that this is Serritella’s debut novel. The pages burn with frenetic energy and are peopled by memorable, compelling characters. The tension is palatable, the twists and surprises perfectly timed and the stakes as high as humans should be asked to endure. The end result, a novel you will long remember and characters you will want to see again. A triumph in every respect." (David Baldacci, number one New York Times best-selling author)

"Wow, what a lively, compelling, and intoxicating debut. Ghosts of Harvard is so many things - a rumination on grief, a glimpse behind the ivory walls of a famous institution, a poignant look at mental illness, and a powerful story about the ghosts that haunt us all. Francesca Serritella is my new ‘go-to’ author." (Harlan Coben, number one New York Times best-selling author)

"Ghosts of Harvard is a wrenchingly beautiful book. With immense heart and unwavering empathy, Francesca Serritella explores the legacy of loss and the mystery of family. It’s one of those rare novels that spirits you to a deeper understanding of your own life, one of those stories whose voice you’ll continue to hear long after you’ve turned the last page." (Bret Anthony Johnston, internationally best-selling author of Remember Me Like This)

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What listeners say about Ghosts of Harvard

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This is a loaded story!

This was a good story but there are so many different topics happening at once I sometimes found it hard to follow... between mental health, paranormal activity, physics, poetry, treason, murder attempt, grief and complicated relationships... but the research used for historical accuracy is impressive and it did leave me wanting a sequel instead of an epilogue.

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  • Cialynne1
  • 2020-05-17

Okay, I finished this book

In a previous review, I said the book was slow. I stand by that review. I bought this book solely because the author's mother is Lisa Scottoline, and I love her books. So, I thought this author would write at least similarly but she doesn't. This book takes a painful look at mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, and the havoc that disease can create for the one who suffers from it. Her portrayal of Eric Archer is true to form. Eric won't take the medicine that will allow him to have a somewhat decent life. Schizophrenics rarely do take their meds with any regularity because they believe they will not see clearly or that the meds will harm them somehow.

Overall, the book was tolerable. However, I don't think that I will be using my credit for another book by this author. Your mileage may vary from mine, and that is okay. For me, this book simply didn't hook me at any point.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Lori
  • 2020-06-05

Excellent first novel!

This engaging novel has something for everyone- family secrets, history, ghosts, and love. And a few other things I won’t mention (because I don’t want to spoil it)! This is a fantastic book written by a talented young writer.

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  • Elaine Cahill
  • 2020-05-25

Brilliant author !

Unforgettable book, incredible writing, amazing research. Francesca Serritella is a superstar author!!! Her mother must be bursting with pride!

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  • SRW
  • 2020-06-16

Amazing! Could not stop listening!

This book is amazing! Francesca did not disappoint-I could not sleep...I had to finish this book! Please write more books!!!

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  • Barbara S
  • 2020-06-06

narration is perfect

To enjoy “Ghosts of Harvard” by Francesca Serritella, one must have an interest in spirits aka ghosts. I was a huge fan of the TV series “Ghost Whisperer” and this is in the same vein. Basically, it’s not realistic fiction; beyond the ghost factor, we have a plucky Harvard Freshman who sleuths her way, by ignoring classes and classwork. Perhaps the setting should have been a third-rate university. However, there is a reason that author Serritella chose Harvard to tell her tale, and she provides that information in her Author’s Note.

Basically, Cady, our intrepid protagonist, enrolls in Harvard to find out why her beloved schizophrenic brother, Eric, killed himself. Eric was a genius but was a noncompliant patient with a history of going off his medications. Cady is determined to discover what led Eric to commit suicide.

While on her quest, Cady begins to hear voices in her mind. These voices are spirits who are trapped in Harvard. Each spirit either went to school at Harvard or worked there. Serritella has political reasons to use her spirits.

In a short period, Cady unravels some secrets of her brother. She follows clues she unearthed. It’s preposterous that Cady accomplished all that she did in about a month’s time, while still attending school. Again, it’s not realistic fiction.

What Serritella does well is show how mental illness impacts a family. Add suicide to that illness, and families fall apart. Also, I’m a huge fan of Author’s Notes and she does a great job explaining her use of the ghosts.

This story is billed as a thriller, which it does build up to be at the last third of the story. There were a couple of obvious clues that Cady missed; however, Serritella threw in a couple of last-minute plot twists that made the read interesting.

It’s a “so-so” read. I cannot say I’d recommend it. I listened to the audio of the story, performed by Karissa Vacker. Vacker is fantastic with her wide range of voices.

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  • charles
  • 2020-07-26

Fabulous book

This was one of most enjoyable books I have ever read (actually listened to). Karissa Vacker was simply superb in the reading of the book.

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  • rich collier
  • 2020-07-20

Enjoy

Really enjoyed this performance.
Karissa vacker totally grasped the characters. Clever storyline and appreciated Harvard background.

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  • Matt S. Lewis
  • 2020-07-12

Cool Story. Why the ghosts?

I loved the authors insights into student life at Harvard and she created great characters. The story was really good and I was hooked right away. Then the ghosts arrived.

I feel like it really would have been the same story without the ghost characters. I don’t think they moved the plot along at all. Yes, the mental health aspect of the story is hugely important, but the voices didn’t do it for me.

I’d recommend it as a fun listen. Expertly narrated and highly creative.

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  • Eileen
  • 2020-06-04

Too much of the same old, same old.

Story gets stale. Repeats and repeats. Wanted to like it but the characters (especially mom and dad) were flat and unlikable.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-05-30

loved it!

great story telling! the narration was very good! I can't wait to read more from Francesca! keep them coming!