Sandra Pankhurst should be admired for her perseverance and her compassion in her cleaning business.
REVIEW 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 reading about the horrendous childhood and difficult life of this woman who was born as a boy. I didn’t know I’d be reading about the details of her sex change operation and her rough life in the brothels. And while Sandra Pankhurst should be admired for her perseverance and her compassion in her cleaning business, the book tries to cover to much and goes to far.
It is interesting that an author would even attempt a full life biography of a woman with a self-professed faulty memory, and then continue to remind the reader that this or that may not be accurate throughout the book. It casts doubt on the entire story. Author Sarah Krasnostein is very much a part of the book and the story. She followed Sandra Pankhurst to various cleaning scenes over a four year period. At the end of the first chapter Krasnostein describes this book as a love letter to Sandra. Krasnostein’s admiration and affection for Sandra is apparent through the book, with such sentiment as: “I have the rapturous experience, many times, of simply listening to her swear.”
The chapters which deal with trauma cleaning are seemingly told by Krasnostein as the observer. But by placing herself in the story she gets in the way. These chapters are interesting, but are little more than a documentation of what Krasnostein sees. The chapters which reveal Sandra’s life history are told from a third person point of view and while gut-wrenching, held little interest given the expectation from the title. The transitions in point of view from chapter to chapter make the book a little difficult to read.
The writing was also difficult to follow, requiring frequent rereading of pages and paragraphs to determine who was speaking or who was being discussed. There are an immense number of people and name changes referenced in the book and keeping up with everyone adds to the struggle. THE TRAUMA CLEANER was a trying read.
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Book Published April 10, 2018.