Hastings District Libraries

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Trauma Cleaner: One woman's extraordinary life in death, decay & disaster by Sarah Krasnostein.


...Sandra is at once exactly like you or me or anyone we know and, at the same time, she is utterly peerless.

I think it's fair to say this biography blew my mind.

Sandra Pankhurst is an Australian woman whose business specialises in cleaning up hoarders homes, death scenes, methamphetamine labs and any other grisly scenario you can imagine. Sandra is very good at what she does and is a fascinating character. Her strength lies in the compassionate way she deals with her clients; especially the hoarders who often have heart-wrenching stories and are present while the cleaning team tackle years of collecting and decay.

Sandra began life as Peter, a little boy who is adopted and then starved, neglected, and abused by his new family. Peter grows up, marries, and has children, before beginning a new life as a woman.

Sandra spent time as a Les Girls performer in Melbourne and self-funded her gender reassignment surgery. She worked as a prostitute in mining towns, and later as a funeral director (who married the owner of the business). Her abusive upbringing  and her experiences as a trans woman, as well as sexual, physical and emotional abuse she endured during this time, have left inevitable scars.
It seems as though Sandra is healing her many personal traumas through her empathy towards her clients and the transformation of horrific physical spaces.

Alternate chapters in The Trauma Cleaner detail Sandra's personal history and experiences; and her Trauma Cleaning clients.  Both topics are interesting enough to stand alone as a book, together they are riveting, if not sometimes difficult, reading.

Writer Sarah Krasnostein is also a lawyer and met Sandra at a seminar for forensic support services. She was fascinated by Sandra's story and the two became close over the four years she spent writing the book and attending jobs with Sandra. Her writing is sometimes a little clunky, but this ultimately does not matter as Sandra's story speaks for itself and completely held my attention.

A truly amazing woman with an amazing life history. Highly recommend.

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link:    The Trauma Cleaner
ebook:  The Trauma Cleaner



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