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At the Edge of the Haight

by Katherine Seligman

At the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman X
At the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2021
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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There are currently 31 member reviews
for At the Edge of the Haight
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  • Barbara B. (Evansville, IN)
    Fictional Account of Homelessness in San Francisco
    The dire homeless life of 20-year-old Maddy Donaldo is depicted very honestly and vividly in the novel At The Edge of the Haight, written by Katherine Seligman. Why do young people choose to live such a careless and rough lifestyle when they are given opportunities to improve their lives? This is the most important theme throughout the novel.

    There is a pecking order among the homeless population in and near the Golden Gate Park of San Francisco. Maddy and her friends Ash, Fleet, and Hope rely upon one another to avoid being victims of theft. But crime and drugs still touch their lives. Maddy and her dog, Root, casually encounter a teenage murder victim in the park. Her life is forever impacted by the gruesome discovery.
  • Katie V. Madison, WI
    A Gripping Story of the Darker Underbelly of San Francisco's famous Haight-Ashbury Neigborhood
    For four years, I lived in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. In the morning, I'd run through the neighborhood as the city's inhabitants--housed and homeless--began to stir. On the weekends, I'd run through Golden Gate Park, through many of the places this book's main character, Maddy, sleeps at night and spends time in during the day. I was fully aware of how sinister these lushly overgrown trails could feel at night. Going to and from work and wandering the neighborhood on the weekends, I saw the mostly white, mostly young people sitting on the streets, many of them unwell, strung out, or both.

    Maddy's story provides a fuller picture of that aspect of my experience, delving into the inner world of one of those people and depicting her day-to-day life, so different from what I experienced as a housed person in San Francisco. Seligman's portrayal of Maddy's life was gripping, keeping me reading for hours and hanging on every word. The characters were vivid, the glimpse into the neighborhood homeless shelter and the park itself full and clear.

    And the book's plot, which weaves Maddy's story around the central mystery of what compelled the book's villain to murder another young white person in a secluded area of the park, is compelling. We wonder, as do the dead young man's parents, what his life was like on the streets of San Francisco and how he ended up meeting a tragic end. We get hints, but we never solve the mystery, and Maddy lives in fear of the killer.

    The one thing I struggled with was the fact that the book's gaze lies on white characters and people. When I first moved to San Francisco, I assumed the face of homelessness was white--the youth on the streets and in the park; the older white men in wheelchairs, like the character Jax. However, when I volunteered in the family shelter that used to be in the Haight and moved to the Tenderloin in the early 2000s, I discovered that most of the homeless families I was working with were people of color. I learned about those families and their lives and discovered a much vaster world of homelessness than I had previously understood. As I read this book, because of my personal experience, I found myself wishing to see those families in the story. Perhaps Seligman or another writer--maybe one of those kids, if at all possible--will tell those stories, which also need to be seen and understood.

    Seligman is a master of character development and setting. I felt like I was walking down Haight Street with Maddy and sitting in hidden groves in Golden Gate Park. And I was rooting for Maddy to get housed and change the trajectory of her life. She had good people rooting for her--something so many unhoused people lack--but she was just unreliable enough as a narrator that I was left hoping for her life to change but not sure that it would. And that was enough for me. Seligman's accomplishment in this book, I feel, was to draw me into the story so thoroughly that I was willing to accept Maddy's choices--and, in my real life in the real world, to continue to support services for the homeless and educate myself about the realities of homelessness.
  • Gingie W. (Waupaca, WI)
    At the Edge of the Haigh
    The reason I was intrigued by this book was my own experience in San Francisco with our son who was an emergency room resident. As I began to read, I became involved immediately into the lives of the young adults in the story and could visualize what I had seen in San Francisco. The descriptions of the homeless communities, and their daily struggles were very true to what I observed and also my son's experiences living in SF. The story not only gave me the thought process of the homeless youth but also the social systems available to them. I would think this book would be of interest and may be appropriate for our youth interested in social issues of our society. I did enjoy reading this and of course cheering for everyone to find a way out into a better lifestyle.
  • Marcia C. (Jeffersonville, PA)
    Searching for a Life
    Maddy Donato is 20 years old and choosing to live on the streets of San Francisco. Maddy has had little or no contact with any one in her family for many years. She graduated from high school, ran off to San Francisco and found her new "family" there on the streets.
    An incident in the park unexpectedly upends the relatively secure life Maddy has created for herself. Her life becomes more dangerous. She gets pulled into unwanted relationships with the police, a possible killer, and the parents of a young man who was murdered. As a result, her life takes new twists and turns and Maddy begins to find a different direction for herself as she entertains new possibilities for her future.
    This book is primarily Maddy's story which the author tells against the backdrop of memorable street characters, shelters and church kitchens. It took me into Maddy's environment and gave me a glimpse of what it was like to live with the continual uncertainty of each day—how will I get money? where will I find food? and drink? a place to sleep? will I make it through the night? will my friends?
    I've never read a book quite like this one before. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the hardships of those living on the streets. It would make an eye-opening book club selection.
  • John W. (Saint Louis, MO)
    Life on the Street - A Young Girl's Perspective
    As a previous foster parent this story brought back sad memories of true stories foster children have shared. Maddy experiences the horror of some children when she is part of the system designed to protect children - food rationed, children locked in their rooms, etc. by foster parents that are only in the role for the money.

    I found the author's portrayal of life on the street from dumpster diving, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, scamming for money, etc. consistent from these children's stories.

    I highly recommend this book.
  • Louise E. (Ocean View, DE)
    A Glimpse
    This story gives you a glimpse into what homelessness is like for young adults. The characters need to be developed more and the story needs to be fleshed out more. It was interesting to see that some businesses are friendly to homeless people because most do not want anything to do with them.

    By the end of the story I was wondering what it would take for these young people to turn themselves around – have a home, get a job, marry, and raise a family. There is a movement in the United States to find a permanent place to live first then get them the services they need.

    You can learn a lot about a topic reading fiction, and this is no different. It is a worthwhile read for someone who would like to learn about homelessness.
  • Gina V. (Mesa, AZ)
    Captivating and frustrating
    This book definitely left me with more questions than answers. I know very little about teenage homelessness, so this was very interesting and thought-provoking. I had a difficult time understanding the kids' aversion to being helped and their reasons for leaving home. It seems as though there are no easy answers to this mountainous problem. I have a feeling this book will stay with me for a long time. It would make a great book club read.

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