Sometimes you find a book by accident- this is one of those books. I can’t even remember how I came across it, but in my search I discovered that it was an audiobook on my library’s app. It’s definitely one of those books that you expect to be one thing but that turns out to be another entirely.
Sandra Pankhurst is a remarkable woman. Kind and no-nonsense, we follow her as she cleans up the homes of people with mental illness, where tragedy has happened, where others daren’t venture. But this isn’t a book solely about her work (fascinating as it is) but also about the extraordinary life that brought her to this point. Sandra is a transgender woman who has survived some trauma of her own, fighting to raise herself from horrendous beginnings to now, where her experience allows her to help others. In her introduction, Krasnostein states clearly that it is a love letter to a remarkable woman and it is easy to see why Pankhurst would be fascinating to a writer; if you pitched her story as a novel, you would be accused of creating something that feels unreal.
That’s not to say that the author gives her subject a free pass- there are some times when Pankhurst comes across as selfish and reckless and Krasnostein pulls her up on this (albeit gently). But then, who of us would be saints if we had our whole past thrown out for everyone to read about?
So this is not a book about trauma cleaning and what causes it, although we do meet some of Pankhurst’s clients and learn about what brought them to that point in their lives (or deaths). But the fascinating part is how Sandra herself was brought, like a benevolent tornado into their lives, to help them clean up and move on- and how much destruction she had left behind her in order to push forward herself.