At the Edge of Haight by Katherine Seligman was a evocative and vivid experience of the situations that homeless people go through in San Francisco. It’s very much a dog eat dog world and having people you can trust and rely on can be crucial to surviving.
The main character in the novel is Maddy Donaldo who lives on the streets with her friend Ash, Fleet,Hope, and dog Root. One tragic day she witnesses the murder of a young teenager called Shane in the a park. To make matters even more complicated, the parents of Shane, Dave and Marva bombard Maddy for answers as to why someone would have hurt Shane. Maddy unwillingly begins to get to know Dave and Marva but this unlocks past memories she would rather forget and stay away from.
I found At the Edge of the Haight highly enjoyable and raced through it within a few days. The depiction of the homeless characters felt very real and at times felt like I was watching a very interesting documentary on the tele. What I found most outstanding was that it really opened my mind as to why people become homeless and also why they decide not to ask for any help in solving this issue. We find out that Maddy’s mum has alcohol and mental health issues. On the other hand, characters such as Ash could actually have a cushy life but decide not to because they want their own freedom and don’t wish to meet the expectations of others. It really made me think deeply about the misconceptions surrounding homelessness.
In terms of the characters, they were all very well fleshed out and interesting. I ended up caring up many of them, especially Maddy after hearing her backstory. My favourite side character was the wisecracking Ash who was very much a carefree individual. The bond Maddy had with him and her friends was great and very compelling. Without her friends Maddy would definitely be in a more worse position as they protect each other and are essentially family for one another. An example of this is when Maddy and her friends buy pizza having not eaten anything all day, only to have it taken away my a gang. So yeah it’s pretty intense.
One thing that I guess niggled at me was the fact that the characters don’t want to pull themselves out of their holmlessess? I mean I should’ve felt sad at their situation but whenever someone or an organisation tried to help them people like Ash, Hope, Fleet and Maddy would just let it slide. Thankfully Maddy begins to take the steps to push herself out of her holmlessess which gave me a sense of “yes things are gonna get much better for Maddy”. Maddy came across as someone who is really intelligent and on the ball so I do feel she should’ve pushed herself to succeed in the world. I guess the book puts a spotlight on the misconception that all homeless people want help. For many, it gives them a sense of freedom and independence.
I also found David very irritating. Like don’t get me wrong, I understand he wants to find out why Shane was killed. But this guy was obsessed with Maddy to the point it became kinda creepy to me. But that’s just me I guess. It just gave me the feeling that David and Marv just wanted to replace Shane in order to feel better. I feel bad even saying that but it’s how I felt they came across 🤦🏽♂️
Overall, At the Edge of Haight is a very well written story. Katherine Seligman depicts the subject matter of being a homeless person really well and instantly grabbed my interest. I’ve never read anything like it which was very refreshing for me as I’d been reading much of the same i.e. fantasy novels.
The book will be released on the 19th of January 2021. Thank you to Algonquin and Kelly for sending me an early ebook copy 😊