In May 1995, a photograph and an anonymous note arrived at The Harvard Crimson that said “Keep this picture. There will soon be a very juicy story involving this woman.” Soon afterwards, Sinedu Tadesse stabbed to death her roommate, Trang Phuong Ho, and then hung herself. This book recounts the stories of these women, whose admission to Harvard was “halfway heaven,” a bridge to the American dream after lives of hardship. But they met instead with the darkest of all fates: a tragedy that might have been prevented.Sinedu grew up under communist tyranny in Ethiopia. Trang was born in a Vietnamese forced labor camp, and fled the country with her father and sister to end up on welfare in Boston. Despite their similarities, the two were never friends; Trang was friendly and outgoing, while Sinedu, awkward and shy, had trouble adjusting to a culture vastly different from her own. Drawing upon her astonishing diaries, Thernstrom, a Harvard graduate herself, reconstructs Sinedu’s inner life to reveal a girl struggling against isolation and depression. The book reveals Harvard as an institution ill-equipped to deal with mental illness on campus that apparently cared more for its reputation than for its student body. A brilliant synthesis of cultural analysis, psychological study, and first-rate investigative journalism, Halfway Heaven is a haunting exploration of the power of profound loneliness and an expose of one of America’s most distinguished universities.