Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese
A group of chronically homeless people – the ragged company – Amelia One Sky, Timber, Double Dick and Digger take refuge from a descending Arctic front by taking in movies at an old theatre. They enter the world of cinematic escapism and also meet Granite, a jaded and lonely journalist who has given up writing. Together they form an unlikely band. The bonds between them are made stronger when Digger discovers a winning lottery ticket worth $13.5 million, on his daily route digging for cast offs he can exchange for money. None of the four can claim their winnings for lack of a fixed address, but by enlisting the help of Granite they try to change their lives and fortunes forever.
This novel explores the meaning of the word home as Wagamese reconnects his characters to their various histories and their dreams for the future.
The story is told by each of the characters in turn using first person, past tense. Of the five main characters Wagamese has succeeded in giving a distinct and recognizable voice to only 2. I found myself flipping back numerous times to see who was telling the story when any of the other 3 characters took up the tale.
I found it difficult to believe in the characters as they were often doing things, saying things that were not suited to their particular persona. Wagamese tells us many times that “rounders” (those who have been around a long time on the street) don’t talk about their pasts, don’t bare themselves to others and yet, at the slightest hint of “well maybe you should tell your story” one after the other of the four spills their story to an assembled group of 5 people. Often in these revelations the characters take on, what I assume is, the voice of the author. The vocabulary and turns of phrase are completely out of character for the particular rounder speaking.
The rags to riches story is a popular one and Wagamese gives it a fair go, but again, I found it to be less than believable.
Because of the lack of credence of the story and characters and the resultant lack of trust in the author, the novel quickly became a difficult read for me.
All in all, if I were awarding stars, I would give this book 1 out of 5.
If someone feels otherwise after having read Ragged Company I would love to read your comments.
Review by Christine