Halfway Heaven

Melanie Thernstrom, Author Doubleday Books $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-48745-0
The 1995 murder of Harvard student Trang Phuong Ho by her roommate, Sinedu Tadesse, was so shocking that it appeared to defy conventional explanation. Early reports focused on the perceived similarities between the girls: both were from war-torn third-world nations--Tadesse from Ethiopia, Trang from Vietnam--and both were high achievers who planned to attend medical school. To Thernstrom (The Dead Girl), the lack of analysis in these early reports was symptomatic of a peculiar combination of political correctness, which cast both young women as victims, and the press's buying into the Harvard mystique and taking its institutional spin at face value. When Thernstrom investigated Tadesse's background, she uncovered a slew of possible motives commonly ascribed to murderers: jealousy, childhood trauma and signs of serious mental illness. Her findings lead her to question the effectiveness of Harvard's residential system in recognizing trouble signs in its charges. She also indicts the University Health System for its HMO-style approach to psychiatric care. As a Harvard grad, Thernstrom is personally offended by the limited access the press was granted after the murder, and by the school's efforts to thwart her own investigation. She uses this book to lash back at the institution, but this approach works because Thernstrom steadily connects her disillusionment to the stories of the victim and murderer and to the complicated array of forces that brought them together. The result is a complex and mature work of true crime. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1997
Release date: 08/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-452-28007-6
Paperback - 978-0-385-48937-9
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