‘Ragged Company’ by Richard Wagamese


“When hands on the street are held out, it isn’t always alms that are beggared; it’s life, contact, touch, generosity of spirit…”

Ragged Company is about a group of homeless people who win the lottery (13.5 million) but can’t collect because they don’t have a fixed address! It’s been on my to-read pile for ages but I bumped it to the top after the recent passing of this great Canadian author Richard Wagamese. Like Medicine Walk, this book is a real, elegant, earthy, funny, and gentle story well told.  Parts of it are delicious reflective prose and though it isn’t a quick read, I did fly through it and couldn’t put it down. It is deeply compelling and healing as a human reflection on the meaning of ‘home’ but also is intriguing to see what happens to people when they suddenly have an unlimited source of money and go from getting enough for each day to having enough for each day. Wagamese explores the development of the inner lives of four homeless people, as well as the lonely jaded journalist who befriends them and the lawyer who helps them. They become a rather odd ragged company, but isn’t that what all of us are in the end?

What does it mean to belong, to be needed, to be free, and to be in community? After reading this book I feel even more strongly that when giving to the homeless it should always include a gesture of  human connection as well…get a name, have a brief conversation, give a blessing–do not allow them to be invisible. Do not make assumptions about them or consider them all alike–they each have a unique past and a story, as do we all. Wagamese turns our conventional ideas upside down and makes us think in new ways about winners and losers, rich and poor, bondage and freedom, love and friendship, value and worthlessness, support and community, faithfulness and rejection…all through a powerful story. Rest in peace Richard Wagamese. You have taught us that we are story and we are grateful.

The New York Times Obituary

3 responses to “‘Ragged Company’ by Richard Wagamese

  1. What a beautiful review of an excellent book! Yes, the power and blessing of community! And what a wonderful author. Thanks, Joanne!

  2. Can I borrow this book? Sounds like a super smart story line… love your insight re “human contact” when giving some money to a homeless person. That’s a powerful thought. Txs. n

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