Review: The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein

April 17, 2018
One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death Decay and Disaster, Sarah Krasnostein, Book Review,
Published By: St Martin's Press on April 10, 2018
Format Read: ARC Edition (371 pages)
Genre: Non-fiction/ Memoir/ LGBTQA
Series: StandAlone
Source: Publisher Request
The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster
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.


 Content Warning: Rape, Drug Use, Child Abuse, Suicide, Mental Illness, Violence


Sandra is a incredible woman who has learned to be herself while dealing with the dangers and discrimination that comes when people know who she is. The book goes through Sandra's life while describing the trauma cleaning jobs Sandra manages with her cleaning crew.  She experiences serious crisis throughout her life when she lived as a male and later a woman.  Sandra however is a unreliable narrator of her life. The author explains that she has kept most of her experiences to herself and has buried a lot of what happened through her own drug use along the way.
"Her work, in short, is a catalog of the ways we die physically and emotionally, and the strength and delicacy needed to lift the things we leave behind."
Sandra has a hard life growing up, she is abused by the adopted family she lives with. Although she survives that ordeal she tries to live a normal life in a traditional sense by getting married, having children, and living as a man in adulthood. The need to be herself completely takes precedent over everyone else in her life, so she sets out on her own. Sandra does whatever she can to survive and live as a woman. Her life as a prostitute is dangerous but gives her freedom to express her identity. Sandra experiences brutal mistreatment, at the hands of her lovers, strangers and an Australian government that doesn't  have a mechanism for someone to change genders.
"But the opposite of trauma is not the absence of trauma. The opposite of trauma is order, proportion; it is everything in its place."
Despite the numerous obstacles Sandra overcomes, she manages to stay positive and dedicate her life to helping others. The stories of people struggling with mental illness who have hoarded their home, were fascinating. The author did  a great job piecing together what she could from Sandra's life while reminding the reader how trauma unchecked can end up in piles of regret around us. I was engaged with the stories but wish I could have learned more about Sandra's family. This was a harsh reminder of how fiercely some people have to fight to live as themselves. Overall a great reflection on a resilient woman's life we can all learn from.

Recommended for Readers Who
-enjoy reading memoirs of powerful women
-are interested in learning more about Trans Women
-can tolerate a unreliable narrator and disturbing experiences

I received this ARC Print from St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.


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.

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