THE VELVETEEN DAUGH­TER

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Debut Fiction -

Lau­rel Davis Huber, She Writes Press, Soft­cover $16.95 (300pp), 978-1-63152-192-8

“You be­come. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t hap­pen of­ten to peo­ple who break eas­ily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be care­fully kept,” ex­plains the Skin Horse in the chil­dren’s story The Velveteen Rab­bit. Us­ing this and other his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments, Lau­rel Davis Huber’s The Velveteen Daugh­ter ex­plores the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Margery Wil­liams, au­thor of The Velveteen Rab­bit, and her daugh­ter, Pamela Bianco, a now-for­got­ten artis­tic prodigy.

Al­ter­nat­ing be­tween pas­sages nar­rated by Margery and Pamela, the novel be­gins in Pamela’s child­hood as she’s poised on the brink of dis­cov­ery and a pre­cip­i­tous rise to in­ter­na­tional artis­tic fame and chron­i­cles their ex­tra­or­di­nary fam­ily across sev­eral coun­tries and decades. At the cen­ter of the fam­ily’s world is Francesco, Margery’s hus­band and Pamela’s fa­ther, a man who uses his fam­ily’s tal­ent for his own am­bi­tions. And both Margery and Pamela adore him. In ser­vice to their ado­ra­tion, nei­ther is as forth­right as she could be with the other, both swal­low­ing their own needs and, to some de­gree, per­form­ing for Francesco.

Margery, a woman who’s de­fined by her ac­u­men with lan­guage, sup­ports but can­not name or com­pletely cope with the men­tal-health chal­lenges of her fam­ily, whether it’s those of her child-prodigy daugh­ter or her beloved, mer­cu­rial spouse. Mean­while, Pamela chases her ge­nius in or­der to please the fam­ily while strug­gling to de­fine the dif­fer­ence be­tween her­self, her per­sonal strug­gles, her ca­reer, and her artistry. Amidst all that goes un­said, Huber re­veals decades of a com­plex, per­sis­tent love that’s equal parts great strength and be­set­ting weak­ness.

This is not a mother-daugh­ter story about vil­lains and vic­tims; these women move through each other’s lives like sun and moon, both il­lu­mi­nated and shad­owed by the other. Huber’s richly tex­tured lan­guage is a won­der to be­hold, her prose ev­ery bit as lu­mi­nous, in­spired, and wise as ei­ther Bianco’s or Wil­liams’s own work.

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