Book Review: The Trauma Cleaner

Author: Sarah Krasnostein

Review: This is a book that can shift the emphasis from empathy for to empathy with. It makes us question what defines a flawed person and whether there is such a thing? Is the ‘flawed person’ just a banal line used to grab attention and allow for a perpetual state of victimhood? Or is it merely a state of being for every one of us? Sarah Pankhurst is no victim. Her story is about awakenings both for Sarah and those that she touches and works with. It’s about the backwards and forwards journey towards those moments. It’s about the big battles that people face to get through each day and where they find their comfort and safety. As a reader, we’re challenged to an awakening of our own, one of real and unjudging compassion. Sarah opens our mind to what could be any one of us, while encouraging us to question societies progressiveness, or lack thereof.

Pages: 261

Genre: Memoir

Book Blurb: 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.

Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker, 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.

Sarah Krasnostein has watched the magnificent Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to the living and the dead – and the book she has written is remarkable. It is not just the compelling story of a fascinating life; it is an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.

Book Blurb Source: Krasnostein, S., The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster, Text Publishing, Melbourne, Australia.

Book Review: The Erratics

Book by: Vicki Laveau-Harvie

Review: Be it a book, film or theatre performance, I judge it on how it makes me feel. It’s not just entertainment I seek, it’s an emotional response that I want most of all. This can be the pleasure of undiluted joy and perhaps the excitement of having my curiosity tapped into, or even the provocation of overwhelming sadness. Laveau-Harvie’s memoir has the sheen of comic levity offering just the right amount of balm to her family’s story, it’s the abrasiveness and the toxicity of the destructive co-dependent relationships that really prickles. For some it may even prompt questions about the longer-term effects of our own familial ties and their residual effects, like those we see with the two sisters’ lives we glimpse into. It certainly is riveting, as all traumatic stories are.

Pages: 224

Genre: Memoir, Autobiography

Awards: Finch Memoir Prize 2018, The Stella Prize 2019

Reviewer: Jody

Book Blurb: Dark, sharp, blackly funny and powerful, this is memoir, wielded as weapon, with the tightly compressed energy of an explosive device.

‘We’ve been disowned and disinherited: there’s not changing it, I say. When something bad happens to them, we’ll know soon enough and we’ll deal with it together. I don’t realise it at the time, but when I say that, I imply I care. I imply there may be something to be salvaged. I misspeak. But I’m flying out anyway. Blood calls to blood; what can I tell you.’

This is a memoir about a dysfunctional family, about a mother and her daughters. But make no mistake. This is like no mother-daughter relationship you know.

When Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s elderly mother is hospitalised unexpectedly, Vicki and her sister travel to their parents’ isolated ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to help their father. Estranged from their parents for many years, Vicki and her sister are horrified by what they discover on their arrival. For years, Vicki’s mother has camouflaged her manic delusions and savage unpredictability, and over the decades she has managed to shut herself and her husband away from the outside world, systematically starving him and making him a virtual prisoner in his own home. Vicki and her sister have a lot to do, in very little time, to save their father. And at every step they have to contend with their mother, whose favourite phrase during their childhood was: ‘I’ll get you and you won’t even know I’m doing it.’

A ferocious, sharp, darkly funny and wholly compelling memoir of families, the pain they can inflict and the legacy they leave, The Erratics has the tightly coiled, compressed energy of an explosive device – it will take your breath away.

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