At the Edge of the Haight Summary and Reviews

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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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jan 19, 2021
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

The Winner of the 2019 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, At the Edge of the Haight follows Maddy Donaldo, who is homeless at twenty, and the lives of those who depend on makeshift homes and communities in a rapidly changing San Francisco.

Maddy Donaldo, homeless at twenty, has made a family of sorts in the dangerous spaces of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. She knows whom to trust, where to eat, when to move locations, and how to take care of her dog. It's the only home she has. When she unwittingly witnesses the murder of a young homeless boy and is seen by the perpetrator, her relatively stable life is upended. Suddenly, everyone from the police to the dead boys' parents want to talk to Maddy about what she saw. As adults pressure her to give up her secrets and reunite with her own family before she meets a similar fate, Maddy must decide whether she wants to stay lost or be found. Against the backdrop of a radically changing San Francisco, a city which embraces a booming tech economy while struggling to maintain its culture of tolerance, At the Edge of the Haight follows the lives of those who depend on makeshift homes and communities.

As judge Hillary Jordan says, "This book pulled me deep into a world I knew little about, bringing the struggles of its young, homeless inhabitants—the kind of people we avoid eye contact with on the street—to vivid, poignant life. The novel demands that you take a close look. If you knew, could you still ignore, fear, or condemn them? And knowing, how can you ever forget?"

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"What a read this is, right from its startling opening scene. But even more than plot, it's the richly layered details that drive home a lightning bolt of empathy. To read At the Edge of the Haight is to live inside the everyday terror and longings of a world that most of us manage not to see, even if we walk past it on sidewalks every day. At a time when more Americans than ever find themselves at the edge of homelessness, this book couldn't be more timely." - Barbara Kingsolver, author of Unsheltered and The Poisonwood Bible

"At the Edge of the Haight brims with empathy for the overlooked and the underserved. It's a deep, dark, and necessary look into lives often discarded and disregarded—an urgent and important read and a startling debut." - Ivy Pochoda, author of These Women

"Subtle yet compelling ... written in delicate, understated prose, At the Edge of the Haight not only offers unexpected insights into the daily life of those who are young and on the streets, but into the confusion of tenderness, hurt, fear and fierceness that tumble within the minds of many. An enlightening read for anyone of any age." - Helen Benedict, author of Wolf Season 
                                                         
"This book pulled me deep into a world I knew little about, bringing the struggles of its young, homeless inhabitants—the kind of people we avoid eye contact with on the street—to vivid, poignant life. The novel demands that you take a close look. If you knew, could you still ignore, fear or condemn them? And knowing, how can you ever forget?" - Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound   

"I loved this novel: its tenderness, its toughness, its brilliantly-named protagonist Maddy—these days, what thoughtful person isn't mad? Maddy is a Holden Caulfield for our times, smart, streetwise, a survivor who is not jaded. Seligman's vivid portrait leads us to understand San Francisco's street people not as "the other" but as extensions of our friends, our families, our neighbors, ourselves.  If there is hope for our species, it begins there." - Fenton Johnson, author of At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life

The information about At the Edge of the Haight shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Anl

Great read
I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. The author does an excellent job of describing the life of the homeless from their perspective. Her characters are believable; some more likable than others. The plot is simple and straightforward - not too many characters or issues. And there is no opinion or judgement on a polarizing issue. I read an advance copy and almost did not request it over concern of an author trying to form my opinion. Kudos to the author. She successfully touches on several volatile issues that homeless deal with every day. I put this author on my list to read more that she writes in the future.

Rebecca R. , Western USA

Realistic and Empathetic Without Being Judgmental
I understand why this book was the winner of The Pen/Bellwether prize for socially engaged fiction. First person narrator Madlynne (only 20 years old) has a life of homelessness, living on the streets of San Francisco. Sadly, she was pointed in that direction starting with her mother's mental illness followed by an uncaring foster home where food was strictly rationed and things like cookie packages were marked so that no child could take another cookie.

While many books promise to give readers an insider's view of name the situation or social program, author Katherine Seligman artfully avoids warning against bad choices, bad parenting, or bad society while also avoiding the over-glamorization of this alternative lifestyle. Instead, this novel empathetically pulls the reader into a realistic portrayal of homelessness and dumpster diving for food, along with sorrows of families who have lost someone to life on the streets. I don't think I will ever drive or walk by another homeless person without thinking of this book. I have always supported local, national, and international aid programs, but this book made me feel the relief of those homeless people who are able to grab a sweatshirt from a free clothing bin on a cold morning or who are grateful for some food that they can also share with their dog. Thank you to BookBrowse and Algonquin Books for the ARC.

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.

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.

...11 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Katherine Seligman

Katherine Seligman is a journalist and author who lives in San Francisco. She has been a writer at the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner and a correspondent at USA Today. Her work has appeared in Redbook, Life, Money, California Magazine, the anthology Fresh Takes and elsewhere.

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