Four homeless people, each with a different story to tell, are brought to life by Richard Wagamese in Ragged Company. These people were drawn into my heart and remained there long after I put this book away. Amelia, Digger, Dick and Timber live on the streets of Toronto, and look out for each other, following the code of the street.
When the weather turns to sub-zero temperatures, the foursome seek out the warmth of a local movie theatre. Being drawn into the world of the movies, they return frequently to warm up and enjoy the entertainment. On many of these occasions, they meet Granite, a journalist who is in the theatre hiding from his own life and through these coincidental meetings they strike up an unlikely friendship.
When the group win the lottery and have trouble cashing in the ticket as they have no ID or a fixed address, they turn to Granite for help. While this relationship has the potential to be portrayed as the heroic white man coming to their rescue, this storyline is written honestly and humbly, showing Granite’s genuine caring for his friends, allowing them to take the lead on what they want and need from him.
The large lottery win sets the group up for life, but it also stirs up their pasts and causes each of them in turn to face some demons that they have been hiding from. Wagamese takes the time to let us get to know each character and brings us into their lives respectfully and genuinely telling their stories with an understanding of what it means to be on the street.
The big win allows them to buy a house for all of them to live in, which begins the exploration of what exactly is home. Is it necessary to have those four walls to have a home or is it something more than that- something that each of us have inside of us, that perhaps money cannot buy.
This thought provoking book is a must read – it is a beautifully written story that invokes many feelings and an understanding of humanity and what home means to each of us.