The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster, by Sarah Krasnostein

I found this book to be fascinating and captivating. As someone who works in a field that encounters trauma on a daily basis, the details of how intensely traumatic life experiences impacted a complicated and deeply disconnected woman were amazing. The author writes about meeting Sandra Pankhurst and becoming instantly intrigued. Sandra owns a hugely successful trauma cleaning business and was one of the first female funeral directors in Australia. But her life is much, much more than her business accomplishments.

The Trauma Cleaner is about Sandra’s business, of course, and readers meet some of her clients throughout the course of the narrative. However, we also learn about her life–at least what we can know. Traumatic experiences have blocked out much of the memories of her life, so her own timeline is something of a mystery to Sandra. Born male, Sandra was adopted by parents who had recently lost a baby and who subsequently had birth children who rendered Sandra expendable. She was put out, spending years living in a backyard shed before leaving entirely as a teen. The book chronicles Sandra’s journey as a drag queen, her journey to have sex reassignment surgery, her loves, her losses, and, ultimately, her survival at all costs.

I was blown away by this story–highly recommended!

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