Richard Wagamese is a beautiful writer whose work I have read before and so I knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy the prose when I started his book Ragged Company. I wasn’t disappointed.
Despite the beauty of the writing I admit I was a little frustrated during the first half of the novel. It depicts the lives of four homeless people who have formed a little band or family. Amelia One Sky has three male companions Digger, Timber and Double Dick. The book starts with relating Amelia’s history so you feel like you know her right away. But honestly the other three guys kept getting mixed up in my head as the story unfolded. I just couldn’t keep the three of them straight and was actually a bit upset with Richard Wagamese. Couldn’t he have found better ways to distinguish between his male protagonists? However in the second part of the story one by one each of the men, Digger, Timber and Double Dick share their life stories and after that I had absolutely no trouble telling the men apart.
I don’t know whether Richard Wagamese did it purposely but his book really demonstrates that until we hear their stories homeless people sort of seem all the same to us. They are just struggling, nameless, faceless folks we encounter begging or sleeping on the street. They aren’t individuals with individual lives and histories and personalities till……………..we listen to their stories.