Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARichard Wagamese is a Canadian author who has been writing for many years.  This is the first book of his that I have read.  I had heard about it before (but I can’t remember where), so when it showed up on this year’s Canada Reads Top 40 list, I decided to finally read it.  And I’m happy that I did.

There are five very different, and well-developed main characters in this book.  Four homeless people (Amelia, Timber, Dick, and Digger), whose daily routine includes spending some time together each day, are discussing ways to keep warm during the recent cold snap.  Amelia suggests they go to the movies.  At first, they feel self-conscious and out of place, but soon they come to love their afternoons at the movies so much that it becomes part of their daily routine.  On their first day at the movies, they sit next to a man who is also a regular movie-goer.  The five of them eventually become friends.

Then, everything changes the day Digger finds a winning lottery ticket for $13.5 million.  The rest of the story is what happens after finding the lottery ticket that changes their lives forever.

Throughout the book, all five of the main characters take turns narrating the story, so we get a good look into each of their minds, giving us a better sense of who they all are.  Each of them had their own reasons for being on the street, and they each have their own stories to tell.

This book looks closely at the nature of friendship, as well as the old question of whether or not money can buy happiness.

“We come together in our brokenness and find that our small acts of being human together mend the breaks, allow us to retool the design and become more.”

“Yes,… You are special.  But not because you have money.  Money doesn’t make anyone special.  You’re special because you take care of each other.  You’re special because you don’t desert each other.  Ever.  You’re special because even though this big friggin’ thing happened to you all, you’re still trying to get into the movies.  You’re still trying to be who you are.  That’s what makes you special.  To me, anyway.”

This book made me want to go to the movies.  The selection of movies the author chose for his characters to watch in this book had me reminiscing about my life when those movies came out.  He also chose them carefully to fit in with the themes of the book.

I loved this book, and I think many of you would also love it.  It’s not perfect, but the themes are thought-provoking, the characters are original and often funny, and the story is compelling with a satisfying ending.

A few favourite quotes:

“When I’m in the library, surrounded by all those volumes, all the stacks, I feel like I’m in the company of a great many friends.  Friends who never leave and friends who are always there when you need them to offer comfort and warmth.”

“Old shoes that look as though they carried the tales and stories of a thousand miles in their scuff and smudge.”

“A man with secrets behind his eyes but a world of small joys at the corners of his mouth…”

“…it was good to sleep in a comfortable bed and have the only wind you ever felt at night be the wind of a good fart in the darkness.”

3 thoughts on “Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese

    • Naomi says:

      I’m glad to hear someone else has read it! I loved it too, even though I get that it’s probably not as ‘polished’ as his later books.

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