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The Trauma Cleaner

Narrated by: Rachael Tidd
Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,095 ratings)

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Editor reviews

Emotional scars and mental-health struggles can manifest in a variety of ways. Among the least well-known, however, is how they can affect a person’s home. Sandra Parkhurst has made it her life’s work to enter these spaces, whether it be the rat and roach-infested homes of hoarders or the boarded-up dwellings of those struggling with addiction, to help restore order and bring peace to those living on the fringes of society. 

Sarah Krasnostein's The Trauma Cleaner, shares Parkhurst’s story in tender, heartbreaking detail. Narrator Rachel Tidd brings to life the story of a woman tormented by hostility and transphobic abuse, who managed to remain full of warmth and compassion towards society's most vulnerable. At turns moving, enthralling and deeply upsetting, this fundamentally human story underscores Parkhurst’s remarkable strength and humour in the face of tragedy and adversity.

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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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.

34 people found this helpful

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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.

33 people found this helpful

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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.

48 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Wanders all over the place

Interesting but it jumps all over the place and at times you're not sure if it's on about the author or one of the authors clients.

11 people found this helpful

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Narrator's voice really grated on me

Excellent human interest story but I gave up half way through as I couldn't abide the narrator- sorry

4 people found this helpful

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Pure Beauty

I found the writing of the story exceptional. Sandra the centre of everything but other stories weaved in of the past present and future with such clear connections. Sandra is an inspiration, bold and beautiful, mixed with pain and vulnerability. The narrator of the story really amplifies how well the book was written. I can't put my finger on it, I think it was the fact that changes in the narrative were not accent changes. Instead, there are slight changes in tone that give the narrative a life of its own. I liked that there were not too many cliches or inspirational quotes. Instead, there are some extremely powerful points at the end of the book. The book offers a deep layered reflection. This reflection makes it stand out from other books of similar nature. The descriptive narrative was unique and original. Overall it was simply beautiful. The writer made me want to know Sandra. In actual fact, I could feel as though I was there with Sandra wherever she was. Incredible.

4 people found this helpful

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Not as expected

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

12 people found this 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.

2 people found this helpful

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Good book

Much more than trauma cleaning. I just wish Sandra was more likeable and came across as less selfish. But she's still okay enough to read the story of. It was eye-opening.








4 people found this helpful

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waste of my life

dreadful narrator. couldn't get into the story at all. shame because it had the makings of a decent book

4 people found this helpful

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  • Amanda
  • 03-10-18

An Outstanding Read

I don't think I've ever read a book that has evoked so many different emotions. An absolutely brilliant read from the beginning right through to the end and I still can't stop thinking about it several books later.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-05-20

brilliant story

well written, beautifully spoken. I was emotionally involved and couldn't put it down. highly recommend!

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  • Vanessa
  • 10-04-20

Interesting ... thought consuming !

Brilliantly narrated! A book with a difference. A book sharing a world so unlike mine. it was both compelling and dreadfully sad but with so much hope for the future. in her own way Sandra was a wonderful role model of being driven to achieve her goals ! It took me 9 months to read this book. i would listen... I would think ... and be so personally wounded by the hurt and sadness of this womens life. Brilliantly wrritten ... an amazing author! Congratulations 💐

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  • Michelle
  • 14-01-20

Recommended

The book reads like a long form love letter to Sandra. The language is lush and evocative, I kept finding myself turning the author’s phrases over in my mind. Simply wonderful.

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  • Pauline Ballard
  • 21-11-19

A bit slow and repetitive but an important topic

I must admit that, even though the topic is current and very important, I struggled to listen to the whole story and skipped a few chapters

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  • Renee Otmar
  • 20-08-19

An unexpected delight

The title of this biographical work put me on edge, and so of course I started reading with some trepidation. But I need not have worried. The author has deftly, cleverly and beautifully woven the story of an extraordinary human being with contemporary themes of trauma and those left to pick up the pieces, so to speak; the search for one's true identity; and the need to belong.
Creative non-fiction at its best.
About the reviewer: My reviews may be critical but never unkind or malicious. I am a voracious reader who consumes books in print and audio -- fiction, non-fiction and professional reference -- in equal measure, and my reviews reflect this wide readership.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-07-19

confrontating and honest

so much more than just cleaning. this book tells parallel stories of the trauma she deals with in her business, and her own past.
compelling performance.

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  • Great Danes
  • 28-09-18

Potential never realised

This book had the potential to be good but it never got there. The language seemed similar to the self-conscious language of a university undergraduate. The book had long periods of listing items in the rooms of hoarders with obvious OCD issues. The lists went on and on and on and were tedious and it almost felt like the author was simply increasing her word count. The main character was well drawn but difficult to engage with. The ending of the story in the book is abrupt and, toward the end, the author repeatedly includes the statement 'I will go on' when I really wished she wouldn't . Not a good listen for me.

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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!