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The Trauma Cleaner

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster

Sarah Krasnostein

  • awardShortlisted, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, 2017
  • awardLonglisted, Indie Book Award for Non-fiction, 2018
  • Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…

    But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.

    A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.

    Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.




    Read an extract in the Australian

    INTERVIEWS

    Guardian
    ABC Radio, Afternoons (1:38:00)
    NZ Radio, Saturday Morning
    Nova 100, Chrissie, Sam & Browny
    ABC Radio National, Life Matters
    Gold 104.3 Radio, Jo and Lehmo
    ABC Radio Brisbane, Afternoons with Kelly Higgins-Devine (30:03)
    2SER Radio, Weekend Breakfast
    The Wire
    A Q&A with Sarah Krasnostein on the Feminist Writers Festival blog

    REVIEWS

    Readings Blog
    Saturday Paper
    Kill Your Darlings

    Sarah Krasnostein
    About the Author

    Sarah Krasnostein was born in America, studied in Melbourne and has lived and worked in both countries. Earning her doctorate in criminal law, she is a law lecturer and researcher. Her essay, ‘The Secret Life of a Crime Scene Cleaner’, was published on Longreads and listed in Narratively’s Top 10 Stories for 2014. She lives in Melbourne, and...

    Read Moreright
    Extent:
    272pp
    Format:
    Paperback
    Text publication date:
    2 October 2017
    ISBN:
    9781925498523
    AU Price:
    $32.99
    NZ Price:
    $38.00
    Categories:
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    Praise for Sarah Krasnostein
    andThe Trauma Cleaner

    ‘Written with sensitivity, insight and warmth…Krasnostein has pieced together a compelling history through careful research and interviews. The Trauma Cleaner is no ordinary trauma narrative: we see how the infliction of multiple traumas has left this fascinating woman uniquely placed to restore order among the despair of others, and it is with similar care that Krasnostein has produced this book.’

    ‘Amazing…I couldn’t put this book down, and I can’t wait to recommend it to everyone I know.’

    ‘Superbly sensitive…A truly unusual biography which is both confronting and edifying.’

    ‘An extraordinary life story superbly retold.’

    ‘A truly remarkable story.’

    ‘The most original non-fiction book of the year…Written with warmth, humour and sensitivity, The Trauma Cleaner is utterly fascinating.’

    ‘Krasnostein’s playful yet heartfelt debut is one of the most arresting works of biography you will read in a long time.’

    ‘Krasnostein is an astute observer of human nature and her understated yet elegant prose is reminiscent of Helen Garner.’

    ’Krasnostein has done a clean-up of her own, untangling the narrative behind Pankhurst’s own cluttered memories…She lets Pankhurst’s courage, humanity and sheer decency shine through. It’s a fascinating read.’

    ‘Surely the most original non-fiction book of the year…Written with warmth, humour and sensitivity, The Trauma Cleaner is utterly fascinating.’

    ‘A wondrous portrait of an inspiring character.’

    ‘Sandra Pankurst’s life is a Netflix series waiting to happen…Krasnostein is a marvelous, sympathetic observer and narrator…Love, love, love this book.’

    ‘[Sandra] is one of the most extraordinary characters you will ever find in a work of non-fiction…The Trauma Cleaner is a disturbing and fascinating read with a heavy, beating heart at its centre…[Krasnostein] shows how a writer can empathise and engage with a subject yet still paint a realistic portrait.’

    ‘[Pankurst’s] story is probably one of the most touching, thoughtful and thought-provoking you will ever read…Sarah Krasnostein tells it with moving compassion, even love.’

    ‘An anomalous, indelible treasure…Krasnostein allows Sandra’s story room to breathe and expand, to quietly but confidently stake its claim to the reader’s heart.’

    ‘[Sandra] is one of the most extraordinary characters you will ever find in a work of non-fiction…The Trauma Cleaner is a disturbing and fascinating read with a heavy, beating heart at its centre…[Krasnostein] shows how a writer can empathise and engage with a subject yet still paint a realistic portrait.’

    ‘[Pankurst’s] story is probably one of the most touching, thoughtful and thought-provoking you will ever read…Sarah Krasnostein tells it with moving compassion, even love.’

    ‘Krasnostein creates a humane portrait of a woman who has somehow found fertile ground in the mess of life. A brutal, heartbreaking and utterly moving story of survival – and a quiet kind of triumph.’

    ‘An extraordinarily impressive debut, in terms of both quality of writing and treatment of the subject matter…Krasnostein handles her material with respect, grace and compassion.’

    ‘Sarah Krasnostein does a marvellous job of illuminating Sandra Pankhurst the person…it’s the vignettes of Pankhurst’s early life and upbringing in Melbourne, interspersed throughout the book, that make for compelling reading.’

    ‘Compelling reading…This book reads like an unabashed love letter to Pankhurst with the first-time author, embedded for years in her subject’s life, effusive in her adoration.’

    ‘Compelling, compassionate, questioning and fascinating enough for at least four sequels—the reasons you finishing reading may not be the reasons you started. Stunning.’

    ‘A superbly written book about the re-doutbable Sandra Pankhurst and her work as a trauma cleaner…This is the startling life story of Pankhurst, a trans woman with a heart the size of Uluru, written in Krasnostein’s irresistibly warm, frank, intelligent voice as she describes sites of sadness and horror that take the reader straight to the dark heart of the human condition.’

    ‘This is a book which resists the temptation to fill in the gaps. In that sense, it enacts trauma itself. Krasnostein doesn’t try and insist that all the details of these complex lives add up – she merely describes them vividly, lovingly and respectfully to make a single statement: this is a life.’

    The Trauma Cleaner pays tribute to a person who’s an absolute life force even among the death and decay and squalor and stench that she works in every day and the crushing difficulties of her own past. And it’s a story told more beautifully than you can possibly imagine.’

    The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein is hard to describe, but will delight anyone who reads it – it is that good…The stories of the hoarders and Sandra’s compassion when dealing with them that will have you transfixed. Promise.’

    ‘Deep empathy for complex individuals…Explore[s] the best and worst of who we are.’

    Other editions ofThe Trauma Cleaner
    • The Trauma Cleaner
      ebook
      ISBN: 9781925410761
      2 October 2017
      Buy ebook