"A book of rare illuminating depth. . .As she did with THE DEAD GIRL (one of the best modern books about murder and its underlying effects) Melanie Thernstrom once again demonstrates a great, shattering gift for writing about forgotten people: the dead, those who kill them, the secrets and histories that bind the killer and the killed, and the lives that must survive beyond such intolerable losses.  Thernstrom knows this territory from deep inside her experience and she covers it with a wisdom, compassion and intelligence that anybody lucky enough to read her will learn from, and will never forget."

--Mikal Gilmore, author of Shot in the Heart

"Her gripping novelistic record of that process operates on several levels.  . . . moves to a compelling indictment of Harvard's inadequate student-support systems. . . Finally Thernstrom traces her own loss of innocence as an investigative journalist. . . Overall, a haunting story of insiders and outsiders.

--Elaine Showalter, TLS

". . . compelling. . .eloquent. . .fortunately Thernstrom was ultimately tough enough to ask all the right questions"


"A gracefully written and moving book that combines first rate journalism, well-informed clinical discussion and a brief meditation on the nature of evil."

--The Wall Street Journal

"Part mystery, part expose, Thernstrom's gripping account of a murder/suicide at Harvard combines fascinating case material with great seriousness of purpose. . . a cautionary tale of alienation's destructive power--even among the most talented."

--Kirkus Review

"a complex and mature work of true crime"

--Publishers Weekly

"In the thoughtful and capable hands of Melanie Thernstrom. . .Halfway Heaven is more than juicy. It is a surprisingly moving and powerful investigation of the nearly unimaginable loneliness of an outsider at Harvard, written by the ultimate insider. . . a brave and chilling indictment of Harvard's reaction to the scandal."

--Entertainment Weekly, "A"

"As poignant and compelling as fiction"




". . . casts an unflinching eye on mental health services on American college campuses"

--The Boston Globe

". . . falls into the can't put it down category. . . a brilliantly constructed investigative account."


"Thernstrom's investigations both shed light on the seemingly inexplicable and cast her alma mater in shadow.  In a lucid account, as expertly paced as any detective novel, she uncovers the depths of Sinedu's mental illness. . ."

--The Times [London]

". . . riveting book. . .brilliantly examines the psyche of a desperate woman driven to violence by loneliness and jealousy. But it is also a revealing and not too pretty look at how Harvard tends to alienate or ignore those who do not fit into the mold that Harvard itself creates."

--The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education
(Winter 97/98)

". . . remarkably empathetic, well-researched and intelligent"

--Harper's Bazaar

". . .truly haunting, profoundly sad. . . Gracefully articulates our grief at losing the one who reached out to others, and summons our empathy for the one who tried, and could not."

--Radcliffe Quarterly

". . . thoughtful and beautifully researched. . . a fascinating and insightful account of a baffling crime"

--Portland Oregonian


--The Virginian-Pilot

". . . assembles and dispatches the explanations--cultural dislocation, institutional negligence, mental illness and the inexplicable presence of evil-- with grace and thorough research. . .Thernstrom knows how to let the truth tell itself and when to enter the tale--and she does so while delivering a ripping good read. "

--Seattle Weekly

". . . eloquent, moving, gripping. . .a sort of Gothic-on-the-Charles: a tale about evil, and about the ghosts that haunted one woman, but ruined two promising lives."

--The Boston Phoenix

". . . accomplishes not only the difficult task of illuminating the lives of two victims, whose histories were inaccessible at best, but also provides a look into the closed, privileged and sometimes cold world of Harvard. . . remarkable not only for her insights into a system that failed, but for her ability to tell the stories of two young women who had so much promise and died so tragically."

--The Hartford Courant

"Like Hannah Arendt, Melanie Thernstrom here beautifully explores the etiology of evil. As a meditation on murder it is both chilling and familiar. We are horrified by the perpetrator, while sensing how close are her desires to where we live."

--Lauren Slater, author of Welcome to My Country

"Halfway Heaven takes us deep into the twin Harvards--the seemingly cozy world of the insider, the legacy, and the terrifyingly lonely one of the outsider. At once sad and frightening, this is a book about the pain of not belonging, a book which wisely and tenderly plumbs the mystery of despair and the endlessness of grief."

--Stewart O'Nan, author of The Speed Queen and Names of the Dead

"Fascinating. . .This book is a wake-up call to American universities everywhere."

--Susan Power, Author of The Grass Dancer

"Written with grace and sensitivity, Halfway Heaven is the story of a contemporary tragedy which will make you weep for the waste of young, talented people. . ."

--The Examiner [Ireland]

". . . elegant dissection of a college tragedy. . .razor-sharp and none too impressed by the elitism of America's East Coast universities. . . fascinating and relevant to academic institutions here."

--Mail on Sunday [England]

". . .the meticulous, gracefully written account of the tragedy that shook America.  It debates the nature of female friendships and the strains of cultural displacement and academic pressure."

--Western Mail [England]