Published by Text Publishing on October 2nd 2017
Husband, father, drag queen, sex worker, wife. You've got to hear Sandra's incredible story.
Sarah Krasnostein's The Trauma Cleaner is a love letter to an extraordinary ordinary life. In Sandra Pankhurst she discovered a woman capable of taking a lifetime of hostility and transphobic abuse and using it to care for some of society's most in-need people. Audible's editors fell in love with Sandra because of her warmth, humour and grace, and we think you will, too.
About the book
Sandra Pankhurst founded her trauma cleaning business to help people whose emotional scars are written on their houses. From the forgotten flat of a drug addict to the infested home of a hoarder, Sandra enters properties and lives at the same time. But few of the people she looks after know anything of the complexity of Sandra's own life. Raised in an uncaring home, Sandra's miraculous gift for warmth and humour in the face of unspeakable personal tragedy mark her out as a one-off and make this biography unmissable.
This is a truly unique book, taking the humanity of S-Town, the beauty of H Is for Hawk and the sensitivity of When Breath Becomes Air to create something of startling originality. Sarah gives listeners a window into a life in a way only unforgettable pieces of writing can.
Due to the nature of some of Sandra's life experiences there are parts of the book which some listeners may find upsetting.
About the author
Sarah Krasnostein is a writer and a lawyer with a doctorate in criminal law. A fourth generation American and a third generation Australian, she has lived and worked in both countries. She lives in Melbourne and spends part of the year working in New York City. The Trauma Cleaner (Text Publishing / St Martin's Press) is her first book.
I’ve been chewing on this review for days and I’m sure I won’t do this one justice. How do you put into words a story that makes your heart heavy with sorrow and full of love, joy, and compassion at the same time? I’d have a hard time formulating an answer the question “what is it about?”. I keep ending up with some sort of grammatically incorrect, run-on gibberish that goes something like this: It’s about this woman’s life, only she wasn’t born in a woman’s body, whose parent’s were horribly abusive but somehow she maintains this amazing level of dignity through all of these shitty things that happen to in her life, and not only that but she goes on to run this very successful and interesting business where she employs all of the empathy and compassion she was either born with or has acquired because of her experiences (probably both) to help other people who are at or near rock bottom when they need her services. Or she cleans up the messes their dead bodies make.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I’ll try to make my thoughts a little more coherent. The Trauma Cleaner is a beautifully written story about Sandra Pankhurst, owner of Specialized Trauma Cleaning Services (STC) in Australia. The chapters alternate between Sandra’s personal story and those of a few of her clients. Sandra’s story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. One should be prepared to read, or in my case listen to, some very disturbing details. It’s been decades since I read A Child Called It, and while I don’t recall all of the details of that book, I recall parts of it making me feel quite similarly.
I really don’t want to say much more about Sandra’s story or that of her clients. That is for the reader to discover. What I’d like to tell you about is what makes this story so special and why I grew so fond of Sandra and the author, Sarah Krasnostein.
First, this book is filled with empathy and respect. Hoarders, sex workers, LGBTQIA, those with behavioral health issues, and every other marginalized or otherwise disenfranchised person or group mentioned in this book is spoken of with tenderness and respect.
Second, and this is very me-specific, I really liked and identified with Sandra. She reminded me of bits and pieces of my grandmother, myself, and a few my favorite nurse/healtcare co-workers over the years. As a matter of fact, I found her to be as much, if not more, a carer than a cleaner. She really has a gift of relating to all kinds of people in the way that works for them. She uses candor, humor, and when needed, tough love. She would be an excellent nurse herself.
I’m really very glad that I listened to The Trauma Cleaner I think I was even more engaged than if I’d been reading it. Rachael Tidd was an excellent narrator.
I didn’t do any research on Sandra prior to completing my listen and I’m glad I didn’t. After I was through, I did some Googling and found some great articles and interviews. I’m not including links because I think it’s better to go in not knowing much beyond the blurb but wanted to mention that they are out there.
** This book contains graphic descriptions of child abuse and (adult) sexual abuse.**
Ann Marie, what a review! I downloaded the audio already. How intriguing!
Ann Marie says
Thank you, Jennifer! I honestly had the most difficult time writing it. I hope you love it as much as I did!
Susie | Novel Visits says
Wow! Wonderful review, Ann Marie. This is a book I hadn’t heard of, but it sounds amazing. Maybe a little hard to listen to at times, but I think I want to give it a try. I’m adding it to my list for Nonfiction November. Thanks for the tip.
Ann Marie says
Thanks, Susie! I only found it browsing through Audible. I think you will really like this one. It’s perfect for nonfiction November!
Lory Sakay says
sounds like a winner….but one I will not read this summer. I’m a school counselor, off during the summer and rejuvenating my emotions and brain during this time as well. I LOVE reads like this but it will be definitely counterproductive to my self-care at the moment. Definitely putting it on the soon-to-read TBR however; seems inspirational among all that grit you describe.
Ann Marie says
I can very much appreciate your wanted to keep your summer reading on the lighter side. I think you’ll enjoy this one when the time is right. I just loved Sandra. She’s sassy and resilient so it’s definitely not a total gloom and doom book.
Ann Marie recently posted…Review: The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers
Katie @ Doing Dewey says
Oh yay! I really enjoyed hearing how much you liked this. I love books about off-beat careers and I’ve only heard good things about this one, so I’d definitely like to pick it up.
Ann Marie says
Thanks, Katie! This is definitely an interesting career choice. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!