Must-Read Memoirs + Novels from Extraordinary Women

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Maja is back for another #virtualbookclub review of memoirs and novels written about or by extraordinary women. Check out her last reviews of A Gentleman in Moscow, Where The Crawdads Sing and MythosThis week’s content focuses on Becoming, Bruny and The Trauma Cleaner. Keep scrolling for some delectable insight into these great works.


Becoming is a book divided into three parts - Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. It covers the author’s journey from a young overachiever on the South Side of Chicago, to a successful corporate lawyer, a wife and mother and finally to one of the most well-known political figures in recent history. It finishes with a brief look at the current US administration. The book seems deeply reflective and is filled with her accomplishments and drama chasing her American dream but also inspiring others to do the same – chase their dreams. I found the message of success being different for all one of the clearest messages of this book. It is not a black versus white tale rather a class one. It’s a relatable story about working women and relays the pressure of childcare, bills, work and parenting – pressures many of us face. Being a politician’s spouse is a thankless role (one I have had experience with) and she writes candidly about her moving into that role as Barack Obama moved from State to Federal politics and then into running for the Presidency. 

Michelle is often faced with the troublesome concept of 21st century gender equality and the patriarchal values that still exist everywhere. She is candidly honest when sharing her thoughts 
about her changing roles and navigating her way through those changes. She admits she clearly understood her role often was simply to make her ‘husband look good’. It’s a dignified book with a positive tale where many political books are not. However even though the book mostly takes the’ high moral ground’ with no mudslinging her genuine dislike for politics is impossible to avoid, she does allow herself to question and disparage the political process itself. One of her mantra’s was “When they go low, we go high.” I would suggest a great one to follow. I found it refreshingly honest and written using her words with her warmth shining through. I listened to this book which the author reads and that added a ‘wholesomeness’ to it.
Buy Becoming online at Amazon or listen on Audible.
Becoming by Michelle Obama


Bruny is an easy read novel released in October 2019, written by an award winning Tasmanian author about Tasmania. She describes it as” part political thriller, part satire, part love story, part family story”.  It often feels like the author is standing on her own soapbox using the main characters to discuss many issues, that as an Australian I did relate to. These include the rise of populism, suppression of the ability to protest, foreign workers, climate change, religious extremism, social inequality and foreign investment in Australia, particularly Chinese "chequebook colonialism". However, I think that is one of the book's problems, it tries to cover too much and this detracts from the story flow and character development. I don’t know if Heather Rose is clairvoyant but it also touches on a scandal based around a cruise ship being allowed to dock in Hobart with sick people on board, COVID was not part of our world then.  


At first glance some of what she suggests seems improbable but then as a reader I was left with lingering thoughts that really, maybe this was not too far removed from our future (1984 revisited). If you are a conspiratory theorist don’t read this as you’ll never sleep again. I didn’t find it a gripping read but the novel certainly provides ‘food for thought’ that the Australian community should be discussing. For those who haven’t been to Bruny Island I hope will give them inspiration to go there as it really is a unique beautiful part of the world with amazing scenery and great food and wine although you will then become another tourist that Rose complains about. I can’t wait for the rest of my family to read this book so we can discuss the broad issues it raises around the dinner table (via Zoom).

Buy Rose’s book Bruny today on Booktopia or listen on Audible.

Bruny by Heather Rose 


This is a book I would never have picked up except it was sent to me by a friend and I am most grateful she did. It’s a debut book for the author who spent four years writing and researching it during which she trailed Sandra Pankhurst, the 63-year-old owner and operator of ‘Specialised Trauma Cleaning Services’. It is not a book for the faint hearted. It traces Sandra’s life, that started for her as a boy, without any glossing over. From her terrible childhood being adopted into an abusive, violent family, who not only denied her appropriate living conditions including food but denied her love and inclusion through a marriage and having two children. As we move through her life Sandra realises, she has to move forward and live a truthful one. She needs to use her own power and put everything in its rightful place. That’s what her occupation now allows her to do put things right in people's lives and homes that have been broken. Its like she “cleans through their pain” and creates order for them.  
“The opposite of trauma is not the absence of trauma. Rather, the opposite of trauma is order”. Trauma in Sandra’s life has a broad meaning. She cleans houses in which people have died, houses that are barely habitable through neglect, houses for people who are "textbook" hoarders. She doesn’t just physically clean for them, most importantly, she listens to them, and treats them as people who are deserving of care. The real story of course is how someone who has had so much trauma in their own lives now cleans up trauma for so many others. It’s not voyeuristic at all rather a compelling, compassionate account of another person’s story.
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

Have any great book recommendations for the Monte & Lou community? Leave a comment below! Stay tuned for more content in our #HOLIDAYATHOME series.