Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

First Line: This is what it says on the back of Sandra Pankhurst's business card:

Excellence Is No Accident

Hoarding and Pet Hoarding Cleanup * Squalor/Trashed Properties * Preparing the Home for Home-Help Agencies to Attend * Odor Control * Homicide, Suicide, and Death Scenes * Deceased Estates * Mold, Flood, and Fire Remediation * Methamphetamine Lab Cleanup * Industrial Accidents * Cell Cleaning

Sandra Pankhurst has been many things in her life: husband and father, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife. But it all began when she was a little boy being raised in violence, not fed, not allowed in the house, and forced to live out in a shed. All she wanted was to belong, and now as a trauma cleaner, she believes every one of her clients deserves no less.

Author Sarah Krasnostein has watched this woman bring order and care to both the living and the dead and the life she reveals is equal parts extraordinary and life-affirming.

As a result of many of the things that have happened to Sandra throughout her life, she didn't remember all the details of what happened to her. Krasnostein's conversations with her and following her to job sites helped put many of the pieces together. Sandra's story is told in alternating chapters, one of a segment in her own life story, then one of her at job sites dealing with various clients. This isn't a story of the scientific cleaning of crime scenes; The Trauma Cleaner is a story of human connections, of proving that we are all in this together no matter how isolated we may feel.

This is definitely the type of book to read when you're moping around thinking, "Why me?" Very few of us have had the sort of soul-searing life Sandra Pankhurst has had, and to watch her deal with the most recalcitrant clients with her own special brand of common sense, understanding, and compassion is a joy. Krasnostein's writing is perfect for this type of story: "But it is equally the ineffable smell of defeat, of isolation, of self-hate. Or, more simply, it is the smell of pain." Pain does indeed have a smell, and it's one that Sandra Pankhurst does not ignore. If only the rest of us followed her example.

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
eISBN: 9781250101211
St. Martin's Press © 2018
eBook, 293 pages

Rating: A
Source: Net Galley



  1. This certainly sounds like a powerful story, Cathy. And, yes, every time we want to feel sorry for ourselves, it's good to remember how much worse it could be...

    1. And that people who have had it much worse than ourselves have not forgotten how to give.

  2. A sad, sad tale - sometimes all of us need a reminder that no matter what happens in our lives, others are dealing with horrific things as well. I'm going to watch for this one.

    1. What I found so incredible was that regardless of all the horrible things that Sandra experienced, she never lost her ability to give. So many people do, and humanity is the poorer for it.


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