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Book review: The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

What a story! While reading The Trauma Cleaner, I couldn’t help myself from marvelling at what an extraordinary story Sarah Krasnostein had stumbled on when she met Sandra of the book’s title.

While Sandra’s job might be interesting enough, as she cleans and restores the houses of hoarders, those with serious mental health problems and where people had died, her background was even more fascinating.

Growing up as a boy called Peter in an abusive household, in her early life Sandra had endured the pain of being considered surplus to requirements by her parents, who adopted her in the understanding they couldn’t have their own children. Her rejection when they realised they, in fact, could conceive, was heartbreaking, but just the start of her own trauma.

However, it is not just the pain that Sandra has experienced in her life that is the remarkable part of the story. It is the personality that Krasnostein manages to portray – the bawdy woman, the fearless businesswoman, the brave survivor, the meticulous cleaner and the hilarious companion. All of this is achieved in a perfectly pressed pair of pants and pristine, white ballet flats.

There was such warmth in this story of pain and struggle that somehow this book is a triumph against adversity, and a joy to read. It introduced me to the trans world, and the enormous struggles faced by those born in the wrong body, just to make a living.

It also shines a spotlight on a role in society that is rarely given the dues it deserves, cleaning up after the most fragile and damaged, entering places where others would refuse. Sandra is familiar with the very worst of situations, but never fails to treat the troubled people she encounters with respect and compassion.

I listened to The Trauma Cleaner on audiobook, and felt like I was listening to a friend telling me about the remarkable woman she had met. And I feel grateful to have been introduced.

The Trauma Cleaner is available at Booktopia (Australia) and The Book Depository (the UK and US)

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