The trauma cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

Karen - The trauma cleanerThis is one of the titles in the RRL Book Club collection. The Trauma Cleaner tells the true story of Sandra Pankhurst who has lived an extraordinary life: husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker, businesswoman, trophy wife. As a little boy, she was raised in violence and excluded from the family home. Sandra now brings order and care to the living, and the dead: a woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years, a man who bled quietly to death in this loungeroom. Biographer, Sarah Krasnostein, accompanies Sandra on her cleaning assignments, at the same time piecing together her much forgotten life history. A fascinating and utterly moving story of survival.

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Everything happens for a reason by Kate Bowler

Amy everything happens for a reasonKate Bowler was a theology professor who was married to her high school sweetheart, and after a long wait, finally had a baby boy when she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. This memoir is about how she, her family, and those she came in contact with, dealt with this news, and how she lives in the face of death. Her area of research is the prosperity gospel, a largely American phenomenon that brought us televangelists, and teaches that if you have faith enough, everything will be good for you, and she talks a lot about this in light of what happened. It doesn’t have a tragic ending; the author is still living with cancer, and it is warm, funny, thoughtful, and gives helpful tips on how to relate to people who are suffering. The author reads the audiobook herself, and has a pleasant voice that is easy to listen to, though the accent isn’t my favourite.

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I feel bad about my neck by Nora Ephron

Amy I Feel Bad About my NeckNora Ephron is responsible for for feel-good movies such as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail. This is a collection of essays, many about the amusing lengths women go to in the attempt to reverse the effects of aging. There is also political musing, cooking, the joy of reading, and New York City looms large. I didn’t relate to all of it, there’s a huge amount of privilege here (even in comparison to my own significant level), but there is enough variety, along with sharp wit, to make it compulsively readable.

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No friend but the mountains by Behrouz Boochani

Amy No Friend but the mountainsThis is a really hard book to read; largely because it is a relentlessly bleak situation, and also because it is both academic and poetic. Behrouz Boochani survived two frightening, and dangerous boat journeys to reach Australia for asylum, but was sent straight to Manus Island, where he and the other prisoners were treated abominably. It is a shameful situation for Australia, there is no doubt of that, and while the book itself is mostly without hope, yesterday we learned that Behrouz is in New Zealand. I hope he has freedom, peace, and rest.

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Wild and crazy guys by Nick de Semlyen

Cynthia Wild and Crazy GuysI was in my teens when I saw the movies The Three Amigos, Spies Like Us, Beverley Hills Cop, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Blues Brothers – and this book brought all those memories back. It was interesting to read about these comedic superstars and how they handled their fame and the workings of the film industry. A well researched book with a straight forward presentation. It was great to spend some time in the eighties.

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Thirty thousand bottles of wine and a pig called Helga by Todd Alexander

Amy Thirty Thousand etcTodd and Jeff live the high life in Sydney, with corporate jobs, and cooking and renovating as hobbies. They turn their backs on city life and head for the Hunter Valley for the quiet, rural life that turns out to be anything but. Amusing, in turns self deprecating and aggrandising, with a dash of camp, and a lot of fun, this book shares the highs and lows of life on a working property. Definitely one for animal lovers.

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Challenge accepted! by Celeste Barber

amy-challenge-accepted.jpgI very much enjoy Celeste Barber’s Instagram posts. They highlight the ridiculousness of celebrity images, and make us feel good about ourselves. This book is a memoir, about her youth, her career, her friends and family, and it is also about her philosophy; very Australian, and very much of her time. A light, fun read, with touches of sadness, vehemence, and a fair bit of wine.

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An almost perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe

Amy ChristmasI adored Love, Nina, and this is more of the same, only Christmassy. There are autobiographical parts, telling of her aversion to cooking turkeys, the best Christmas music, or how to shop, as well as a few short stories, that might be nostalgic, or dark, but always funny. Nina Stibbe reads the audio version herself, and whether you love, or just endure Christmas, this book is bound to lift your mood.

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The erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

amy-the-erratics.jpgDespite the fact that their parents have disinherited them, Vicki Laveau-Harvie and her sister travel to rural Canada to care for their father, when their mother breaks her hip. This is a true story of a complicated family; the far-reaching, and long-lasting havoc wreaked by a woman with an undiagnosed mental illness, the wild Canadian landscape, and two, very different sisters trying to navigate new and rocky territory. The author reads it herself, and while, at first, I wasn’t sure she had the best ‘audiobook voice’, I think she did a brilliant job. For such dark subject matter, the book is very funny, disturbing, tense, and utterly fascinating.

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