Book

Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder by Melanie Thernstrom (1998)


Two days ago I’d found a book called Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder by Melanie Thernstrom and I haven’t put it down since I started reading it. The story is fascinating for a number reasons, partly because it’s set in one of the USA’s most affluent and elitist universities, but mainly because the two students involved were immigrants from two different third world countries and ethnic minorities.

Sinedu Tadesse was from Ethiopia and Trang Ho was from Vietnam, and both of their parents had survived poverty and violence from political oppression. Sinedu, a shy but bright young woman, had stabbed her roommate Trang, an outgoing and academic student, forty-five times before then hanging herself. At the time there was speculation that two may have been lovers, but Thernstrom quickly discovers that the tragic cause of the murder was far from anything as sensational, and in fact related to culture shock and symptoms of mental health deterioration that often effects students.

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I write this because I found it both harrowing and as one that reminded me of novels that had been adapted into films, such as In Cold Blood (Richard Brooks, 1967) and The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010), but also novels about the dark side of University life such as Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (1992), which lend themselves to idealogical themes and also cinematic storytelling.

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