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The Believer

The Believer: Encounters with Love, Death & Faith

Sarah Krasnostein

  • awardShortlisted, Mark & Evette Moran Nib Literary Award, 2021
  • This book is about ghosts and gods and flying saucers and certainty in the absence of knowledge.

    From award-winning author Sarah Krasnostein comes an exploration of the power of belief. Weaving together the stories of six extraordinary ordinary people, The Believer looks at the stories we tell ourselves to deal with the distance between the world as it is, and the world as we’d like it to be. How they can stunt us – or save us.

    Some of the people you will meet believe in things most people don’t. Ghosts. UFOs. Heaven and the Devil. The literal creation of the universe in six days.

    Others believe in things most people would like to. Dying with autonomy. Facing one’s own transgressions with an open heart.

    In this intensely personal and gorgeously written new book, Krasnostein talks with her characteristic compassion and empathy to these believers – and finds out what happens when their beliefs crash into her own.

    ABA interview with Sarah Krasnostein and Loraine Peck


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    Sarah Krasnostein
    About the Author

    Sarah Krasnostein is a multi-award winning writer and critic. She is the best-selling author of The Trauma Cleaner, The Believer and the Quarterly Essay, Not Waving, Drowning (2022). She has a doctorate in criminal law and is admitted to legal practice in New York and Victoria. Sarah has been awarded the Victorian Prize for Literature, the...

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    3 May 2022
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    Praise for Sarah Krasnostein
    andThe Believer

    ‘A philosophical meditation on all aspects of faith and self-delusion, with the elegant phrasing of ideas that made The Trauma Cleaner such a delight.’

    ‘This book has got me thinking far more than most. Sarah Krasnostein tells the stories of people who live in mindsets unfamiliar to her with compassion and respect… Krasnostein’s art is that she never places herself on the throne of judgment…The result is both beautiful and unpredictable. Krasnostein is neither naïve nor cynical. She is an existential adventurer.’

    ‘The author has the rare combination of skills that allows her to not only build enough trust and rapport with her interview subjects that they will reveal intimate details about their lives, but to also distil a person down to their essence and put that on the page in a way that is simultaneously informative, sensitive and enthralling…the true strength of The Believer is in each compellingly rendered story…Readers who liked The Trauma Cleaner or Ramona Koval’s A Letter To Layla will find much to appreciate in The Believer.’

    ‘Krasnostein’s writing is lyrical and stylish, and imaginative in a way that often feels invigorating…The Believer is a fascinating book, and one that asks big questions – about connectedness and separation, certainly, but also about love and grief, resilience and faith, and all the ways in which we situate ourselves within the world. And it is informed always by a sprawling curiosity and deep humanity, which make it an affirming, and deeply moving read.’

    ‘Sarah Krasnostein, who blew us all away with her fantastic book The Trauma Cleaner, brings her inquisitive nature and empathetic way with people to her new book The Believer…By seeking such disparate subjects, Krasnostein has woven the threads of their stories, and their very different belief systems, into a tapestry that is rich with life, love and stories. I expect this will be running off the shelves, and deservedly so.’

    ‘Fans of Krasnostein’s first book, The Trauma Cleaner (2017), will find much to admire in her second: her curiosity, her even hand, her focus not on people’s coherence but on their contradictions, her lateral thinking…Krasnostein’s narrative voice – a blend of insight, authenticity, and journalistic skill – is like a slow-cooked Shabbat cholent, rich and wholesome, every flavour running into the other.’

    ‘[Sarah Krasnostein] listens and records and keeps going back for more until she has built up a picture, complete with all the subtleties that human emotion, faith and intellect offer…there is no judgement here, just the healthy scepticism of an inquiring mind willing to listen, even when the encounters make her uncomfortable or challenge her own theories and convictions.’

    ‘Krasnostein writes beautifully, and emerges as a thoughtful and compassionate observer…The Believer is, in many ways, my favourite kind of book: one that requires a little extra attention and engagement, calling on the reader as an active participant in its project of making meaning…The result is a meditative and intensely rewarding reading experience, the impact of which lingers long after the final page.’

    ‘[T]ranscendent, expansive writing that does the thing that many writers strive for but only few achieve: to show us humanity in clear and compassionate detail, to deepen our understanding of it and to reveal the mysterious and myriad ways in which we are all connected. It is nothing short of astounding!’

    ‘A fascinating journey, with an erudite, compulsively reflective companion.’

    ‘A tender observation of humanity and the unanswerable questions we ask…The joy and discovery of this book, and in life, is in the asking.’

    ’[Sarah Krasnostein] is a wonderful, wonderful writer…The best follow-up to The Trauma Cleaner you could have. Highly recommended.’

    ‘Deeply compassionate while still retaining an observational and, at times, critical eye…Krasnostein is a fine, thoughtful writer and it is a pleasure to follow her into the consideration of these strongly held, at times odd, even objectionable, belief systems which can only provoke you to consider your own view of the world and those around us.’

    ‘This book is a superb achievement; Krasnostein is a masterful storyteller and describes her cast of characters in a rich and vibrant manner..This is a collection of people seeking out different ways to reassure themselves that they are not alone in the universe.’

    ‘[A] fascinating and sometimes bonkers investigation into self-delusion…Krasnostein takes care to get inside her subject’s heads to find out what makes them tick.’

    ‘A polyphonic work that reverberates across the wide spectrum of the human experience, lending credence and kindness to differing beliefs without judgment…Krasnostein’s generosity, curiosity and lack of judgment towards her subjects made me believe that there is a way to stay true to one’s rational self while also being open to other possibilities.’

    ‘Sarah Krasnostein holds a mirror to the world we inhabit but don’t fully understand, helping us see how our lives are shaped by beliefs at once wholly strange and unexpectedly familiar. Lyrical, haunting, endlessly curious, The Believer will restore your faith in the power of stories to bridge the gaps between us.’

    “Generous and compassionate… . Her talent for penetrating intimate settings and eliciting personal testimony is impressive. The profiles are fascinating.’


    ‘A fascinating portrait of the human condition, Sarah Krasnostein’s latest explores a range of belief systems through six profiles—of a death doula, a geologist, a ghost-hunting neurobiologist, ufologists, a woman accused of murder, and Mennonite families living in New York. A great read for our ‘deeply fractured times.’

    ‘Explores the power of belief by weaving together six profiles of people who believe in ghosts and gods and flying saucers, people with whom Krasnostein has very little in common.’

    ‘This is a must-read if you love these kind of journalistic deep-dives into Characters with a capital C … You get that very rare experience of feeling like you understand other people a little bit better.’

    ‘Compassion and curiosity permeate Sarah Krasnostein’s writing. Every few pages there is a line so poignant it takes my breath away.’

    ‘Sarah Krasnostein takes us on an unexpected journey through strains of belief that range from dubious to bizarre. It is sometimes disconcerting, sometimes deeply beautiful, and never simple.’

    ‘In an era when it often appears as though beliefs are our biggest dividing lines, Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer comes as a great tonic—a thoughtfully reported, entertaining, and empathetic examination of the beliefs that sustain yet sometimes dangerously mislead. Exacting yet compassionate, she takes readers deep inside communities and lives that may be distant from us, offering portraits that refract back on our own worlds. The result feels deeply wise. If reading a book can make you more human, The Believer does just that.’

    ‘Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer is filled with everything the world needs more of: compassion, curiosity, and tenderness. Krasnostein brilliantly shows us how to look more carefully, listen more closely, and love more expansively. A complicated, lyrical portrait of belief, meaning making, and the stories we tell that might save us.’


    ‘This collection of essays will be great for groups looking for something approachable but thoughtful as Krasnostein explores all kinds of strangers’ beliefs about the afterlife, a higher power, and everything in between and what happens when their beliefs clash with the beliefs of others. It’s definitely a poignant piece for today and will open up lots of discussion possibilities for book groups.’

    ‘An illuminating meditation on the nature of belief and the quest for meaning.’

    Other editions ofThe Believer
    • The Believer
      ISBN: 9781925923643
      2 March 2021
      Buy ebook
    • The Believer
      ISBN: 9781922330208
      2 March 2021
    Other Titles bySarah Krasnostein