Winner, The 2018 Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction
Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife...
But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.
A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.
Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.
Sarah Krasnostein is a writer and a legal researcher with a doctorate in criminal law. She was born in America, studied in Melbourne and has lived and worked in both countries. Her first book, The Trauma Cleaner, won the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Prize for Non-Fiction in the 2018 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards as well as the Australian Book Industry Award for General Non-Fiction. Sarah lives in Melbourne and spends part of the year working in New York City.
'Amazing...I couldn't put this book down, and I can't wait to recommend it to everyone I know.' Readings
'Written with sensitivity, insight and warmth...Krasnostein has pieced together a compelling history through careful research and interviews. The Trauma Cleaner is no ordinary trauma narrative: we see how the infliction of multiple traumas has left this fascinating woman uniquely placed to restore order among the despair of others, and it is with similar care that Krasnostein has produced this book.' Books + Publishing
'This is a book which resists the temptation to fill in the gaps. In that sense, it enacts trauma itself. Krasnostein doesn't try and insist that all the details of these complex lives add up – she merely describes them vividly, lovingly and respectfully to make a single statement: this is a life.' Judges' Report, Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, 2018
'A book that is as hard to read as it is hard to put down. A story of pain and loss and loneliness, of trauma and transformations and sassy humour. And cleaning...It is a hilarious and poignant tale of a woman who defies all labels...Krasnostein is a very fine writer. Her debut book is a compelling and honest story of human survival, and love.' Janet Albrechtsen, Australian
'An extraordinary life story superbly retold.' Tim Gott, Devonport Bookshop
'It's a truly remarkable story.' Joan Mackenzie, Whitcoulls
'The most original non-fiction book of the year...Written with warmth, humour and sensitivity, The Trauma Cleaner is utterly fascinating.' Page & Blackmore Booksellers
'Krasnostein's playful yet heartfelt debut is one of the most arresting works of biography you will read in a long time.' Guardian
'Krasnostein is an astute observer of human nature and her understated yet elegant prose is reminiscent of Helen Garner.' Readings
'Krasnostein has done a clean-up of her own, untangling the narrative behind Pankhurst's own cluttered memories...She lets Pankhurst's courage, humanity and sheer decency shine through. It's a...