The author of The Trauma Cleaner explores the contours of human belief by spending time with six subjects who place their faith in religion, UFOs, ghosts, and more. Their stories are interwoven with Krasnostein's own memories and reflections on the human condition.
... generous and compassionate ... Her tour of humanity, spanning unlighted country roads in Australia to crumbling apartments in the South Bronx, shows that many human beings benefit from finding an ideology that encompasses not just their beliefs but their ways of living. I don’t know if Krasnostein is entertained, credulous or just tolerant of the ghost types, and that is one of her gifts ... Krasnostein skips from subject to subject and returns, with the fluidity of a string wound for a game of cat’s cradle—in and out and back where she started ... Her talent for penetrating intimate settings and eliciting personal testimony is impressive. The profiles are fascinating—I can’t imagine talking to paranormal enthusiasts for more than 10 minutes without nodding off or secretly checking my phone, but Krasnostein’s portraits left me feeling melancholy all the same. We all want so much to belong, to believe, to connect, to be whole, to be good—and that’s a lot, whether you work at the Ark Encounter in Kentucky or are chasing space aliens in Victoria.
What’s most striking about Krasnostein’s dealings with, and portraits of, these people is her compassion ... Even when they are espousing ideas that seem 'unfathomable' and even offensive, Krasnostein’s project is always to try to understand them and what it might be like to live as they do. In this sense, it is a deeply humanist project, and one that feels timely, too. Krasnostein’s writing is lyrical and stylish, and imaginative in a way that often feels invigorating ... The idea of a composite portrait is ambitious, and it also allows Krasnostein to work with echoes and repetitions, resonances across the text. It’s a poetic structure, and one that works by accrual ... one of the pleasures of the book is noticing the moments in which the stories interweave or chime against each other. It does make for some unevenness, though – not all of the characters or their narratives are as compelling or intriguing as those that really shine here; nor is Krasnostein’s project of understanding able to be achieved equally across them. The fragmentary nature of their telling too can be disorienting or even somewhat dissatisfying, impeding as it does at times a sense of narrative progression within each individual story ... Despite this, The Believer is a fascinating book ... And it is informed always by a sprawling curiosity and deep humanity, which make it an affirming, and deeply moving read.
This book is a superb achievement; Krasnostein is a masterful storyteller and describes her cast of characters in a rich and vibrant manner. You constantly have to remind yourself that you’re not actually in the room with her ... By interspersing the six stories, Krasnostein encourages us to consider different forms, motives and methods for belief. At the beginning, it may be confusing to ascertain what a woman with a terminal illness and a creationist museum which has built a life-size replica of Noah’s ark have in common, but the ideas start to flow as the stories unfold ... Krasnostein is an observer, not a judge. She challenges our insatiable appetite to know the reasons for things and does not invent contrived endings for stories that do not have them.