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Jennifer Savran Kelly. Algonquin, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64375-184-9

Kelly’s richly imagined debut follows an aspiring artist as she attempts to jump-start her stalled professional and personal life. In 2003, genderfluid Dawn has been living for two years with musician Lukas, but lately Lukas only finds Dawn attractive when she presents herself as masculine. Dawn loves her job as a bookbinder at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but when she tries to design a book of her own, she’s stymied. One day, disassembling an old book before repairing it, she finds a hidden cover from a steamy mid-20th century lesbian novel with a love letter in German written on the back of it. She sets out to find the letter’s author and eventually locates Gertrude, elderly and ailing, in Brooklyn. Gertrude’s memories of a society more repressive than the present and of forging her own rebellion in a group of “Sapphic Warriors” inspire Dawn to set boundaries in her own life and to create a piece of collaborative art. Kelly populates the novel with a roundly developed cast, including Dawn’s best friend and her diverse coworkers, and while the mystery of why Gertrude’s letter was bound into the book will keep the reader turning pages, it’s Dawn’s evolution as an artist and a person that gives the novel its beating heart. Readers will find lots to love. (Feb.)