The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster
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Winner, The 2018 Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction
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.
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 Australian Book Industry Award for General Non-Fiction, the Victorian Premier's Prize for Non-Fiction, the Dobbie Literary Award, and the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. She was a finalist for the Walkley Book Award, the National Biography Award, the Melbourne Prize for Literature and the Wellcome Book Prize (UK). In 2022, she was awarded the Pascall Prize for Arts Criticism. She is a regular contributor to The Saturday Paper and The Monthly, and her work can be found in a variety of publications in Australia, America, and the UK.
'Amazing...I couldn't put this book down, and I can't wait to recommend it to everyone I know.' Readings
'A book that is as hard to read as it is hard to put down. A story of pain and loss and loneliness, of trauma and transformations and sassy humour. And cleaning...It is a hilarious and poignant tale of a woman who defies all labels...Krasnostein is a very fine writer. Her debut book is a compelling and honest story of human survival, and love.' Australian
'Krasnostein's playful yet heartfelt debut is one of the most arresting works of biography you will read in a long time.' Guardian
'A wondrous portrait of an inspiring character.' Saturday Paper
'[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.' New Zealand Herald
'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.' Sydney Morning Herald
'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.' Courier-Mail
'One of the strangest, most fascinating books I've read, and a standout of the year. Krasnostein's command of language is exquisite, and the complexity of Sandra Pankhurst's life story unfolds seamlessly with the current-day narrative of her unique business and the people she meets with it.' Feminist Writers Festival, Favourite Reads of...