Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster is the fascinating biography of one of the people responsible for tidying up homes in the wake of natural—and unnatural—catastrophes and fatalities.
Homicides and suicides, fires and floods, hoarders and addicts. When properties are damaged or neglected, it falls to Sandra Pankhurst, founder of Specialized Trauma Cleaning (STC) Services Pty. Ltd. to sift through the ashes or sweep up the mess of a person’s life or death. Her clients include law enforcement, real estate agents, executors of deceased estates, and charitable organizations representing victimized, mentally ill, elderly, and physically disabled people. In houses and buildings that have fallen into disrepair, Sandra airs out residents’ smells, throws out their weird porn, their photos, their letters, the last traces of their DNA entombed in soaps and toothbrushes.
The remnants and mementoes of these people’s lives resonate with Sandra. Before she began professionally cleaning up their traumas, she experienced her own. First, as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home. Then as a husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, and trophy wife. In each role she played, all Sandra wanted to do was belong.
The Trauma Cleaner is the extraordinary true story of an extraordinary person dedicated to making order out of chaos with compassion, revealing the common ground Sandra Pankhurst—and everyone—shares with those struck by tragedy.
"Through countless encounters with the fetid, the neglected, and the downright tragic, Parkhurst has found meaning and peace, and [author] Krasnostein a singular subject whom she approaches with well-deserved awe."—Booklist (starred)
"A transgender former prostitute cleans up the fetid houses of the psychotic, the hopeless and the murdered. Sounds like some dubious TLC special, but it’s a fascinating bio of Sandra Pankhurst… Revelatory.”—People
"Compelling and fascinating."—Oxygen
"Pankhurst is an engaging, sympathetic, and fascinating person, and Krasnostein does an excellent job of balancing Pankhurst's personal story with those of her clients."—LitHub Crimereads
"Intriguing...A complex protagonist makes for engaging material."—Publishers Weekly
"Within the pages of The Trauma Cleaner Krasnostein has given us an extraordinary gift of humanity, life, and determination while carefully guiding us through the unspeakable conditions in which people find themselves in the face of trauma. Through sublime writing, Sarah Krasnostein expertly renders an unforgettable portrait of Sandra, one of the most compelling people I have ever read. I found myself constantly walking the line between frustration and utter love for this woman and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her and the life she has lived. Krasnostein is a master storyteller of creative non-fiction and I am in awe.“—Sarah Schmidt, author of See What I Have Done