I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Kanapolis Fog Publishing Emporium
713 Rustic Rd, Anderson, Indiana
Genre: Literature/Fiction
Rating: Exceptional
ISBN: 13:9780615147147, $11.95, 177 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

"Daphne is a young woman with a troubled past. With her in the Kanapolis Sanitarium are a strange collection of people who both hinder and help her as she tries to heal from an abusive childhood.

"Glen, the protector. Theodore, the wise. Stuart, the paranoid. Violet, the nymphomaniac. Pet Shop, the zookeeper. Shy Boy, the drooler. And Andie, the therapist who finally reaches through to Daphne.

"A story with sadness, horror, comedy, hate love and redemption."

First off, this story reminded me somewhat of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but at a teenage level and more complex in a unique way. The cover says that Daphne is a young woman, but for some reason, I felt the characters to be in their teens. Belt Buckles & Pajamas delves into the complexities of the psychological affects resultant when a young girl, Daphne, is sexually molested by her father, not protected by her mother, and deceived my her imaginary friend Melissa. Dr. MacPherson, Andie, is the key to Daphne’s wholeness.

Michele LeBlanc is an exceptional writer and does an excellent job of bringing to life these colorful, strange characters. In a way, one might consider this tale to be a mystery of sorts, as the ending is quite surprising, and I wouldn’t want to spoil that element for you. It is certainly worth reading a second time, just to see how LeBlanc worked her magic. The story is well written and well edited. Allow me to share a small portion of LeBanc’s writing with you, from page 66:

"‘No, no cutting or bleeding. Not on the outside.’ She (Andie) looks straight at me. ‘But inside, I have my demons and fears and nights when I wake up screaming.’

"‘You do?’ I wonder at the possibility, that he could ever penetrate her dreams. That she was ever forced to... to be me. ‘You have nightmares, like I do?’

"She takes my hands, looks me in the eyes. I cannot see any demons in her irises. I am certain I am unable to hide the ones swimming in my own. ‘Daphne, I know you have very frightening dreams. I know what has happened in the past haunts you. I won’t pretend that my own nightmares are anything like yours, but I do have them. There are... incidents in my past that visit me when I sleep, that leave me trembling and sweating and crying. But they do not own me. They do not keep me from living in the present. That is what I am offering to you. I cannot make them go away, only you can do that. I cannot make the past any brighter, and better, any safer than it really was. What I can do, what we can do together, is learn how to accept what happened, and how to keep it in the past where it belongs. It doesn’t have to be our master; it doesn’t have to keep us from enjoying today.’

"Her impassioned plea, her vulnerability, her empathy wash over me, overwhelm me, drown me. I know she is telling me the truth, about wanting to help, about her own nightmares but especially about how she doesn’t know just how bad mine are. It is obvious that he isn’t a part of her nights; that she had been able to sleep through until morning and he never woke her and she never heard the belt buckle hit the floor or wet her pants because she smelled his cigar in the hallway.

"‘Tell me about the dreams, Daphane,’ she pleads and I don’t want to because either she won’t understand or worse she will and then he would have tainted her too and she wouldn’t be pure and she would have part of him in her and I could never love her without loving him too and he would win.

"She purses her lips. God! How does someone do that? A simple tightening of a couple facial muscles and I am pulled to her, she is opening me and I am fighting it trying not to contaminate her, trying to keep her safe so there is still Base so I can still call Base and not be tagged."

As the author says, "Belt Buckles & Pajamas is intended for mature audiences, as it deals with a young woman’s recovery from childhood abuse, and some of the situations are not suitable for younger readers. The novel contains some humorous moments to lighten the story; however, in the end, it is a story about the redemptive power of love and the strength of the human spirit."

One of the best books I've read in quite awhile. You won't be disappointed!