Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Book Review: At the Edge of the Haight, by Katherine Seligman

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I was lying on the dirt where we’d all passed out when I felt a slap on the bottom of my foot. A cop shined a long metal flashlight into my eyes and I reached for my shoes. Ash had forgotten to set the clock.

“Move on. No camping. You have ten seconds to get going.” He began counting out loud. “One. Two.” He smacked Ash’s foot with the back of his hand. “Three.” He moved on to Fleet and Hope. We hadn’t bothered to get into sleeping bags so we stood and staggered away from the trees. “Four. Five.” Hope started saying that we were hanging out, not camping, it was a public park and we had a right to be there, but Ash grabbed for her arm and she stopped. There was no point bullshitting him, except to wait for Fleet, who was still curled on her side, “Six,” he yelled. Tiny cuddled in her arm. The cop poked the bottom of her foot again, but she didn’t budge. “Seven!”

It’s no wonder that this book won an award for Socially Engaged Fiction. The portrayal of Maddy’s life on the streets is both touching and matter-of-fact.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: At the Edge of the Haight, by Katherine Seligman
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.

Maddy was a character who evoked some sympathy for her plight, but at the same time she made it clear that this was her choice and she was being as smart as possible about it. Minding her own business and taking care of her dog, Root, were her primary goals. She knew her closest friends on the street would help look out for her and Root, but she also knew they were free to leave whenever they chose.

As a YA book, this presented a great overview of life in this makeshift community. It did not glamorize these kids living on their own. Their circumstances all varied in regards to how they ended up on the streets. The father of the murdered boy tried to make assumptions about why kids lived on the streets, but each kid’s story was truly unique, and usually unknown to the other kids. The kids shared their time with each other, but not their history.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It could really help a reader visualize a lifestyle probably different from their own. I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy contemporary fiction and socially engaged stories.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, and reader. She likes to go with the flow and sometimes post pictures on Instagram as PoshBecki.


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