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The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  19,413 ratings  ·  2,128 reviews
Husband, father, drag queen, sex worker, wife. 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.

Sandra Pankhurst founded her trauma cleaning business to help peopl
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published April 10th 2018 by St. Martin's Press (first published October 2nd 2017)
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Elizabeth There is in one of the first chapters. She says she has no need to, plus her reassignment would he hard to explain.

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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  19,413 ratings  ·  2,128 reviews

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Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Recently, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death was popping up in discussion, and I had been toying with a re-read until fortuitously offered the chance to read Trauma Cleaners. What perfect serendipity. Don't you wonder, just a bit, about the secret lives of cleaners? Their tricks for getting out blood? The crazy things they encounter? Sadly, though the blurb makes it sound as if such stories are the focus, the book centers on Sandra, the owner of a trauma cleaning business. As Sandra w ...more
Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!
The Trauma Cleaner, Sandra, is a horrible person but the blurb says, "Sarah Krasnostein's The Trauma Cleaner is a love letter to an extraordinary ordinary life". The author excuses the awfulness of her subject every time by harking back to her upbringing.

Sandra, then a boy, had a traumatic upbringing, an adopted child who was rejected and sent to live in a shed in the garden, or a bungalow, at age 9, 11 or 13, his and others' recollections vary. It's always better to tell the truth as that way y
Elyse  Walters
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
WOW.....What a story. My god.... I never read a story like this one. I knew other friends liked this book .....but it was really Esil who inspired me to read this. I almost sent my library ebook back to the library - thinking I didn’t have time to read it - or some other excuse....(I’ve started Crime and Punishment so I figured that might be enough trauma)... haha!

But all I can say is WOW WOW WOW. Sarah Krasnostein did a terrific job writing this book - sentence after sentence was beautiful and
Valerity (Val)
You'll just have to read this one for yourself to understand. It's a multi-layered tale about Sandra Pankhurst, who is nearly impossible to describe without just writing a book about her, as the author has done. She's currently running a business that cleans up crime scenes of all kinds, disasters, drug labs, hoarding situations of property and/or animals, both current and past, scenes which can be filthy, dangerous and toxic. She knows her stuff like nobody's business and has a crew she manages ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would give this six stars if I could.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
The Trauma Cleaner
One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay and Disaster
Sarah Krasnostein

MY RATING ⭐️⭐️▫️▫️▫️
PUBLISHER St. Martin’s Press
PUBLISHED April 10, 2018

This story found within the pages of THE TRAUMA CLEANER One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster was unexpected. I thought the book was about cleaning up after deaths, crime scenes, and hoarders and how one woman fights the good fight to do this. I didn’t know I would be re
Most fascinating person ever!

This is the number 1 most fascinating person I’ve ever come across, seriously. Her far-out life and her far-out job just slay me. For the entire book, my eyes were in startle position and my brain was in wonder warp. I could not put this biography down.

It’s about a person named Sandra. I can relate to her life as much as I can relate to jumping out of an airplane. Her life has been bizarre, but that’s putting it mildly. I’m not going to elaborate (though man do I wa
Vicky "phenkos"
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book for its title: the Trauma Cleaner. And also because its subtitle suggested painful experiences - experieces that we associate with anguish, suffering and upheaval. The trauma cleaner should be someone capable of wiping all these painful experiences off, I thought. And in a way I was right.

Sandra Pankurst is a transgender woman in her 60s whose job is just that: to clean away trauma. Trauma is used here in both senses of the word; physical trauma, as when you infure your fin
Emmy Gregory
Mar 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not like this book. I saw it and thought: that sounds like a really interesting job! I'm up for reading about that. It was not a book about trauma cleaning. It was basically a misery memoir (I wouldn't have picked it up if I knew this) with several of the most irritating features that sometimes pop up in biographies.

Let's get the issue of gender out the way first. Sandra, the subject of the book, is a trans woman, and the narrative delves into her pre-transition past. Now generally trans
Paul Bryant
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was discombobulating. But I like to be discombobulated. I practically live for it.

It’s like the author decided to press everyone’s red buttons one after another like a kid running along a street pressing everyone’s front doorbell – parental abuse and neglect! transgender! transgender rape! Drag acts! Prostitution! Life in a brothel! Serious sexual assault! male violence leading to murder! mental collapse! and piles of filth.

Sandra, our heroine, runs a company which clears up after tra
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
I recently read Maid, which I liked but didn’t love. I found the mix of focus on the author’s life and her observations of the people she worked for as a maid somewhat incongruous. In a way, The Trauma Cleaner does the same thing, but so much better. Sandra Pankhurst runs a company that cleans homes that seem beyond the possibility of being cleaned — the homes of hoarders, people plagued by disease and addiction, and the sites of horrendous deaths. Sandra herself has survived — and gracefully so ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?”


Now for the question of the day – can Kelly .gif up a non-fiction review?????

This book has received mixed reviews from my friends, but after seeing Debbie's reaction I figured it was worth me rolling the dice. It totally was too and really my only complaint was this was supposed to be a BI.O.GRA.PHY. People who write books like these are only supposed
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
A blend of biography and memoir, The Trauma Cleaner meditates on what it means to live with the memory of great pain. The book alternates between describing the daily work of Sandra Pankhurst, a trans woman who owns a trauma cleaning business, and charting Sandra’s traumatic personal history, from her abuse as a child to her estrangement from her children after her transitioning process. Sarah Krasnostein abandons any pretense of authorial distance from her subject, and passionately sympathizes ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredible portrait of a deeply complicated woman – and I adored it. Sandra Pankhurst owns a company specializing on trauma cleaning (after suicides and violent crimes but mostly for people with hoarding tendencies). Sarah Krasnostein followed her work for months and tells in alternating chapter of Sandra’s clients and her own, tumultuous life.

Sandra, who was born as Peter, adopted by a deeply dysfunctional and abusive family, married young and had two children before leaving her fami
The Trauma Cleaner is a one-of-a-kind pseudo-biography about Sandra Pankhurst, who's been working as a trauma cleaner for over twenty years. While it does discuss trauma cleaning, this book is much more than that - it's about Sandra's Pankhurst life, which has had more ups and downs than most of us can even imagine. Adopted as a baby boy by a couple in the '50s, she was beaten, ignored, isolated and kicked out of the house.

Sandra was a son, a husband, a father, a drag queen, a sex worker, one of
The trauma cleaning becomes secondary to the tumultuous life of Sandra Pankhurst. I was a little confused at first what type of book I was reading, but I quickly enjoyed the parts of Sandra’s past, all the pain and suffering that led her to a life cleaning up terrible scenes after traumatic events be it by suicide, murder or due to neglect. It’s no coincidence that Sandra finds herself cleaning up after other people’s messy lives. Her life is one of those nightmare stories. Adopted out at birth, ...more
“What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?”


Well, there's one thing I'm positive of after finishing this book, is that Sandra Pankhurst is one amazing and inspirational individual. I am quite in awe of her lust and vibrance for life, despite all of the hardships and sorrow that has been thrown at her.

Sandra Pankhurst owns and runs a cleaning company that specialises in trauma cleaning. This could be cleaning up a home owned by a hoarder, somewhere where a vio
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
You can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.

I’ve been chewing on this review for days and I’m sure I won’t do this one justice. How do you put into words a story that makes your heart heavy with sorrow and full of love, joy, and compassion at the same time? I’d have a hard time formulating an answer the question “what is it about?”. I keep ending up with some sort of grammatically incorrect, run-on gibberish that goes something like this: It’s about this woman’s life, only she w
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aww2018, 2018-books
Memoirs are often penned based on popular identities such as celebrities and sports personalities. The Trauma Cleaner is an unusual but illuminating memoir of an ordinary Australian, with quite the extraordinary life. Sarah Krasnostein works to highlight the life and times of Sandra Pankhurst, a woman of many guises. She began life as a boy, grossly mistreated by his family, through to a husband, father, drag queen, entrepreneur, wife and eventually a traum
Canadian Reader
I happened upon this work of nonfiction/biography in the new books display at my local library. Knowing little about the book, I was unprepared for the contents. The title and cover photo seemed to suggest that I’d be reading about how the book’s subject got into her unusual line of work, how she performed it, and perhaps how she coped psychologically with it. Well, I did learn about Sandra Pankhurst’s circuitous route to trauma cleaning—how she endured her own significant trauma in childhood an ...more
Text Publishing
‘[A] one-of-a-kind biography.’
Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review Summer Reading Guide

‘Absolutely stunning.’

‘Through countless encounters with the fetid, the neglected, and the downright tragic, Pankhurst has found meaning and peace, and [author] Krasnostein a singular subject whom she approaches with well-deserved awe.’
Booklist (starred review)

‘A transgender former prostitute cleans up the fetid houses of the psychotic, the hopeless and the murdered. Sounds like some dubious T
3.5/5 stars for this one.

I went into this book thinking it would mostly be about trauma cleaning, but it was more than that.

This book offered a handful or so of instances where Sandra was in fact cleaning up after or during a traumatic event. If you've ever watched Hoarders, it is much like that. The squalor Sandra is responsible for is just disgusting, plain and simple. Sarah Krasnostein told of the mess itself, but also the underlying reasons for the mess, which I found particularly interesti
♥ Sandi ❣
4.25 stars

If it weren't for needing to sleep I would have read this book straight through! Knowing that sometime this month I would read this book, I picked it up just to look it over. Decided then to read the first couple chapters, just to get a feel for the book! Whoops! Mistake! I read right through the book - when I laid it down I had 80 pages to go. Then life got in the way - and I had to finish it this morning. I can't tell you the last time I picked up a book and read it in one day - but
Sharon Metcalf
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Sarah Krasnostein's biography about Sandra Pankhurst,The Trauma Cleaner. One Woman's Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay and Disaster, made for compelling reading. Trauma cleaning in the literal sense was certainly one element covered in detail but there was so much more trauma contained in the pages of this book. Her personal story, that of Peter becoming Sandra and all the saga's that entailed, also contained its share of trauma.

Peter's adoptive family treated him abysmally (think beatings, st
Overladen with purple prose and a predominant rose tinted narrative; The Trauma Cleaner was a frustrating read. The author's obvious bias towards her subject derailed what was an interesting topic two-fold; trauma cleaning, and gender-transition.

While tuning into Sandra's inner turmoil and hardships as she sought her identity was interesting, I didn't like Sarah Krasnostein's putting her on a mantle as a martyr - Sandra has many faults and equally as many redeeming qualities; the subjects of wh
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hope I don't need a trauma cleaner in life or in death but if I do I hope I get one like Sandra Pankhurst. This is a unique Australian memoir; one where the author subtly inserts herself into the telling of a life not her own. Sandra is and has been so many things: trans, father, step-mother, husband, drag queen, sex worker, wife, businesswoman. She has experienced horrendous violence and many traumas and she has inflicted trauma on others, namely her wife and children. It can be hard to recon ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
Thoughts soon.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 1954 Robert was a clerical worker. He would spend his days working at The Royal Australian Air Force base in Braybrook. Then he would spend his evenings at the Plough Hotel getting drunk, returning home, and beating his wife and adopted son. Peter was adopted when his parents were told they could not have any more biological children. However, Ailsa, the mother, does indeed fall pregnant and in the next three years has two sons. Peter, still receiving his regular beatings is moved into a shed ...more
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“And though it must feel like a catacomb in that dark hour, and though every hour behind these blinds has been dark, the house is spinning with movement: mould is travelling up and down the walls, food is rotting, cans are rusting, water is dripping, insects are being born and they are living and dying, Janice’s hair is growing, her heart is beating, she is breathing. Which is to say that this, too, is life. Like the creatures that swim in the perfect blackness of the ocean floor, the ecosystem ...more
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“If we all talked to each other in this way, with warm camaraderie and complete non-judgement, much pain would be spared and happiness generated.” 10 likes
“The opposite of trauma is not the absence of trauma. The opposite of trauma is order, proportion. It is everything in its place. It is one long green couch in a sunlit corner, looking like it was built for the space and waiting for you. It is an act of wilful seeing, a conscious choice about perspective.” 8 likes
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