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Summary

Husband, father, drag queen, sex worker, wife. You've got to hear Sandra's incredible story.

Sarah Krasnostein's The Trauma Cleaner is a love letter to an extraordinary ordinary life. In Sandra Pankhurst she discovered a woman capable of taking a lifetime of hostility and transphobic abuse and using it to care for some of society's most in-need people. Audible's editors fell in love with Sandra because of her warmth, humour and grace, and we think you will, too. Here’s what we thought of The Trauma Cleaner:

"As an acquiring editor at Audible, I read a huge number of books but this one completely stopped me in my tracks. This is one of the most 'human' books I’ve ever read, with Sandra’s deep emotional empathy told with warmth and humour. Really though, it's incredibly hard to describe this book because it's truly original – you just have to listen to it!" - Harriet, Audible Editor

"Sarah's memoir of Sandra's extraordinary life is one of the most heartfelt, deeply moving and fundamentally human stories I've listened to in a long time. Much like Brian Reed did for John B McLemore in his remarkable S-Town, Sarah paints an incredibly intimate portrait of a woman whose empathy and will to survive shines through with incredible potency. Rarely have I come across a non-fiction story told with such poetic attention to detail." - Tom, Audible Editor

About the book

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.

This is a truly unique book, taking the humanity of S-Town, the beauty of H Is for Hawk and the sensitivity of When Breath Becomes Air to create something of startling originality. Sarah gives listeners a window into a life in a way only unforgettable pieces of writing can.

Due to the nature of some of Sandra's life experiences there are parts of the book which some listeners may find upsetting.

About the author

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.

©2017 Sarah Krasnostein (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

Sandra's extraordinary, ordinary life

Watch an interview with Sandra, accompanied by photos from throughout her life
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What members say

Average customer ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Fascinating Read

This is such a heartfelt and at the same time shocking story. I could not stop listening to it and am now going for round 2. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

If, like me you are interested in weird and wonderful human behaviour and what makes us do what we do, you'll love this book. I was sorry when it finished.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Not as expected

Not enough trauma
cleaning.... more of a biography - should be called the life of Sandra Pankhurst

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

Great promise underdelivered

This book has a great promise - biography of a transgendered person, employed in an exotic industry, located in Australia. Just think of of all the unique experience and insights she must have had throughout her life and could share with the reader. While we do get sizeable bits of this and that, the pieces never seem to connect into complete picture and I was left rather disappointed with the story.

There are several noticeable problems with it. One is stated right away: Sandra is unreliable narrator. Her memory is full of holes, incomplete fragments and some of her recollections can be pure fiction. It has probably been partly mitigated by documents and interviews with other people, but I could not shake the feeling that parts came straight from author's own imagination. Like the scene when Sandra asked for permission to marry her future wife, told with excruciating emotional details yet a minute later admitted probably had never happened.

Another letdown was author's obvious infatuation with the subject of this book. We're told again and again how she adores Sandra and everything she does. Thus we get a very idealized version of a person. The reader is never presented with alternate points of view: of Sandra's children, co-workers and friends for example. Even more annoyingly, author is very keen on justifying all of Sandra's actions and denies her personal responsibility. This made me cringe at times.

A final note is on the narrator. Her voice was too timid, constantly on the verge of bursting into tears and did not reflect Sandra's bold personality well. Some chapters were overly dramatized and were rather distracting. Overall I did not feel a connection with the characters.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • AS
  • 19-04-18

An exquisit lesson in humanity

If you could sum up The Trauma Cleaner in three words, what would they be?

exquisite, touching, human

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Trauma Cleaner?

The Trauma Cleaner s a story of an extraordinary woman and her extraordinary journey through life. A lesson of perseverance and fight for identity and self-worth. A story of being lost and finding yourself through toughest of times. A real lesson in humanity though by the strangest of characters that there could be.

What about Rachael Tidd’s performance did you like?

The performance is deeply moving and artistic contributing to the narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Engaging book

I wasn't sure I would like this story, since the topic seemed a little dark, but I have to say I couldn't stop listening to it once I got started. Sandra has overcome so much and must be an amazingly strong woman to have gotten where she is today. A fascinating and uplifting story.

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Sensitive, fascinating, heartwarming & compelling

The Trauma Cleaner is one of those books where you instantly strike up a connection in some way to the protagonist. I was utterly absorbed in this book and couldn't stop listening. It shares insight into some pockets of human life where people simpley wouldn't think to look, and highlights, for me, how rich the tapestry of interpersonal relationships is and how even the smallest encounter with someone could possibly and inextricably change a life forever. It emphasises, in equal measure, the terrible lows and blistering highs that only humanity can provide and that humility can come from some of the places you least expect it to. I was changed after reading this book and I hope that it helps people open their hearts and minds a bit more to each other.

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  • Terry
  • Hemel Hempstead, UK
  • 29-07-18

What a life!

So interesting, well written and performed. Sandra's life is wilder than anything I've ever heard or read. On its own it's interesting but add to that her trauma cleaning business, it's off the charts! Anyone in TV land listening, there's a series to be had in Sandra's trauma cleaning business with Sandra as the star.

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Excellent book!

I loved this book and would definitely recommend it! It was a mixture of heartwarming and heartbreaking. Sandra is a fantastic character and the snapshot into people's dirty houses and messy lives was both fascinating and sad.

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Not quite what I was expecting

Story was not quite what I was expecting - less about trauma cleaning and more about the lifestyle of a transexual who happens to be a cleaner. Very enlightening and interesting. I do reccomend!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-07-18

Interesting listening

A really interesting listen. Sandra’s story is beautifully written. Shame that the reader has a cold for some sections...I found it quite distracting!