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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  • Published in USA  Jan 2021
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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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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Book Awards

  • award image PEN/Bellwether Prize, 2019

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Seligman's portrayal of life as a homeless young person is immersive, but ultimately too sentimental." - Publishers Weekly

"All told, Seligman is to be commended for an insightful portrayal of homelessness. She's at her best when showing just how tenuous life on the streets can be...Brave but scattershot storytelling." - Kirkus Reviews

"Putting a human face on those who live at society's margins, At the Edge of the Haight is an intimate novel whose young characters struggle for survival and a little bit of dignity." - Foreword 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

This information about At the Edge of the Haight shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. 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 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.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Dana V

A must read for this time- expands our capacity for caring
Sometimes a book changes the way you see your world- opens a window on to something that, although right there all along, was previously unseen and in doing so shows you something true about the human condition. The world that opens up through Maddy, the narrator of On the Edge of Haight, is a mixture of striving for love, heartache, and questioning that makes us pivot from fear to a greater knowledge. On the Edge of Haight gives the reader the gift that great literature can give- it expands our capacity for caring. In addition, the writing is so crisp, masterful and consistently suspenseful, you won’t want put it down.

Patricia W. (Homewood, AL)

At the Edge of the Haight
After receiving an ARC for this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, it is hard to say I enjoyed it. It was composed very well with vivid descriptions of the homeless and their living conditions. I think we have all been aware of the homeless in our communities, but do we really see them? This book helps with that. It also shows that there are people and ways for them to get help - short term and long term. It also means their change must come from recognizing the challenges and wanting things to be better. There is a feeling of community among the homeless and a willingness to share what little they have, even when it is only body heat in a sleeping bag within a refrigerator cardboard box. I appreciate the time I spent reading this book and would recommend that Everyone read it and share what you learn.

Barbara B. (Holbrook, NY)

Wonderful
I have never read a book such as this. I also never thought I would say I loved this book, considering the subject. But, be that as it may, I found myself admiring the characters at the same time feeling that their life is so hard. I highly recommend this book.

Laura G. (Buffalo, NY)

At the Edge of the Haight
This book was an amazing look into the day to day life of a young woman and her friends who choose to live homeless. As a woman who volunteers at a homeless shelter, with a son who works at a food kitchen, this is not a new topic to me but this perception was very worthwhile. The plot of the book was compelling and the characters well developed. There were so many likable characters. I have recommended this book to many people already.

Lucy S. (Westford, MA)

Hidden society right in the open
When the story begins, you think it will be a mystery, but it's more than that. It describes the hidden society right there on the streets. The book describes the serious homeless situation in your country and how the characters fit into their world on the street. The author lifted the curtain onto a world that most of us will only witness as outsiders. You get a view into the life of Maddy, her close relationship to her friends and wonder through the book why and how the characters got there and what they can do to escape and wonder why they haven't taken advantage of the programs and offers of help. The author touches on the backgrounds of the characters, but the story revolves around their choices and reactions to life in their world. You find yourself cheering Maddy on and hoping she can find a way home.

Veronica E. (Chesterton, IN)

A Walk in the Park
What made me pick this book was the word HAIGHT in the title. Reason, I did some growing up in the 1960s in the Bay area. Loved going to Golden Gate Park and visiting the Haight Ashbury district. My parents were very worried that I might run away. Little did they know that I had no intentions of running away. I was loved and taken very well care of by my family. But curiosity did get the best of me and I would go into the City often. AT THE EDGE OF THE HAIGHT was very well written. I fell right inside this book and walked the steps of Maddy and her friends. You can feel their feelings about living on the streets, sleeping in the park. How people reacted to their way of life. It is a fast read full of love, hope and friendship, but the story also tells you why these kids end up on the streets...abuse, hatred, drugs, no where to go...

...27 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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