“The Velveteen Daughter” is that rare form of novel that blends the distinction between fiction and biography. It is all the more unique in that it subtly exploits the theme of another piece of fiction.

Laurel Davis Huber draws the aching truth of her novel out of the facts of the lives of Margery Williams and Pamela Bianco. Williams wrote the beloved children’s story, “The Velveteen Rabbit.” Bianco was Williams’ daughter, who became a global sensation for her works of art at age 11. Based on extensive research, “The Velveteen Daughter” is a virtuoso performance that pulls you into their crippling, intertwined lives with a sense of fidelity, and won’t let you go until the last page.

Huber, who lives in Maine and New Jersey, describes in her book’s endnotes that “discovering and collecting the various pieces of the puzzle that eventually arranged themselves into ‘The Velveteen Daughter’ was a wonderful obsession.”

To her knowledge, the story has never before come to light, nor has a biography of Williams ever been published. And Pamela Bianco, she writes, “has been forgotten almost entirely.”

Refracted echoes of “The Velveteen Rabbit” resonate throughout Huber’s story. Generations of children and their parents well know the story of the Velveteen Rabbit who yearns to know what “real” is. The Skin Horse tells the rabbit that it’s “a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you.”

The rabbit wants to know if it hurts, and whether it happens all at once. “It takes a long time,” explains the Skin Horse. “That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”

Williams’ “The Velveteen Rabbit” was published after her daughter had become famous, featured in gallery shows attended by the glitterati of the day, her paintings typically selling out in a single evening. Bianco’s starburst fame and its consequences on her life and that of her family is the factual fodder for Huber’s novel.

Laura Davis Huber Photo by Danny Sanchez

Bianco’s father, who worked in the book trade, seizes hold of his daughter’s good fortune and drives her relentlessly to paint more, show more, sell more. His zeal takes over all of their lives in unexpected ways.

Gloria Vanderbilt ends up swooping in to sponsor the family’s move to New York City so Bianco can be at the heart of the American art scene. Vanderbilt puts them up at her expense in an apartment, and provides the young Bianco a studio amid those of other artists that Vanderbilt is cultivating.

All the while, Bianco’s mother has unending misgivings about her husband’s stewardship of their daughter’s career. “How many times did I say to Francesco, ‘We must wait, she must decide for herself when she is ready.’ But he did not see it that way at all, he was all for striking while the iron was hot.” As Williams acquiesces and bends to his will, she becomes an unwitting collaborator in the destruction of their daughter’s soul.

From the start Bianco craves what is in little evidence in her life – real love. As a preteen, she develops a crush on the young poet and writer Richard Hughes, forever anticipating signs and declarations of his love for her, believing that they are destined to marry.

Delusional, she clings to this hope for years, as if believing that the touch of his love, like in “The Velveteen Rabbit,” will make her whole, make her real. It never happens. Bianco falls into despair and dark depression, repeatedly withdrawing from the world, requiring hospitalization.

Huber’s tight interweaving of Bianco and Williams’ stories, past and present, makes the book difficult to put down.

The story jumps from New York City when Bianco is barely coping as a single mother in 1944, back to Europe when she is a young girl and in her artistic ascendancy, then forward again to 1977 to her later life in Manhattan.

Huber is a storyteller of the first order and her talent gleams throughout her debut novel. It showcases the rare alchemy possible in presenting the story of real people and real lives through the magical prism of fiction. Her novel clearly signals that here is a writer to watch.

Frank O Smith is a Maine writer whose novel, “Dream Singer,” was named a Notable Book of the Year in Literary Fiction in 2014 by “Shelf Unbound,” an international review magazine. His novel was also a finalist for the Bellwether Prize, created by best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver. Smith can be reached via his website, frankosmithstories.com.