I have been in bookselling, and bookreading, for many years and in my opinion, I am undeniably an expert at choosing the right book for me to read at any given moment. I am always confident that I will choose a book to read that will be worth my while and that I will, without any doubt, be entertained, rewarded, and even maybe eternally changed for having read it ...continued.
"You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming."
April is finally behind us. We hope for better days ahead.
April has been a weird month for us at Island Books, as it has for everyone. I was struggling with what to write in the owner’s letter this month. Usually I write about upcoming events at the store, upcoming holidays that I’m looking forward to, and upcoming book releases that I’m excited about. Somehow that didn’t seem appropriate right now. I spoke to a friend, who is also an Island Books customer and supporter, about what to write this month; she encouraged me to speak from the heart about what we’re experiencing. So that’s what I’ll do this month.
This experience has been unreal and scary. We don't know what’s going to happen in the coming weeks and months. We don’t know what the new normal will look like when we begin to emerge from this. When this crisis began and we had to close our doors in late March, Victor woke up one night and found me on the family room couch crying at 2am. I was crying because I was scared and had no idea what the immediate future would hold. I was crying as I read post after post about little bookstores around the country closing their doors. I was crying because local businesses that I loved felt they could no longer stay open. The next morning, he gave me a note that you see in the picture. This past week I taped the note to the window so I could look at it every day and remind myself that Island Books has this community supporting us, and together, we will survive.
We’ve always said that Island Books is in the business of community and experience. Our tagline of “Real Books. Real People. Real Community” reflects that. As a result of the crisis, Island Books has been forced by necessity to work online and to try to bring “community” and “experience” to an online world. Our staff has struggled to figure out how to work remotely and virtually in a business that is essentially personal. We've made mistakes and we appreciate your kindness and patience when we do. Working online is not our comfort zone, and it’s not what we do best (but we’re quickly working on it). We can make your orders happen, but we love talking to you. We love finding the books or gifts for you or the special people in your life, then wrapping them up with a bow. That’s our thing – that’s what we do. We love giving personal attention to each of you. Not seeing all of you and not being able to personally help each one of you has been incredibly hard. We really miss it.
We have been fortunate to adjust our business and to be able to work from home and behind the closed doors of Island Books to fulfill your order for books, puzzles, toys, and gifts. Like other businesses in other communities across the country, we are one of many small businesses on Mercer Island trying to survive this crisis. We appreciate all you have done to give us your business, support, and love. It helps us survive this crisis, keep our employees working and paid, and it helps ensure that Island Books will be here to serve our community in better times ahead.
Also, Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing moms out there – especially my mom.
Lately, I have found myself in the not-so-unique position of being a bookseller who doesn’t know what to read to begin reading again. There is a lot going on in the world, and it can be very distracting from the now. As of late, stress has been my deterrent. Like many of my coworkers (unsurprisingly, not Lori Robinson, though), I have had trouble staying on task, let alone allow myself to get swept up into a book. And for a couple of weeks, it was okay. I didn’t particularly like it because half of my identity is reading, but I let myself exist in this state of overwhelm. Sometimes the only cure for all that overwhelms me in the world is reality TV, because books do not numb your mind the way that TV can.
But it has been almost a month since we have been at home, and even in the overwhelm I have been aching to read. All I want to do is curl up and get lost in a mythical world or good narrative. I have read bits and pieces of random books, stopping and starting as my mood dramatically changed. I tried family dramas, historical fiction, and even a mystery, but nothing kept my interest. Then it worked! I was sucked into Blue Flowers by Carola Saavedra. I think it was because of the intensity of the first person writing and the mystery behind the epistolary element. Nothing sucks me in like a forbidden romance. But then my stamina faded out, and I still have sixty pages left of this 200 page book... continued.
Hello mid-April. I started thinking about and drafting this piece in the early days of March, and with each passing week and new development in our current lives, the words I had to say around this subject changed. Little did I know then how apropos the subject of home would become. With at least the rest of the month to go, I think we’re all trying to make some sense of where we find ourselves: Home.
Back at the beginning of March our Island Books Knitting Book Club read Marisa de los Santos’s I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, which coincidentally has a predominant theme of home. De los Santos asks a series of questions in her novel: Where is home, who is home, what is the importance of have a home to go to? What happens when you lose your home? Her writing is beautiful, and I found myself envying both the homes described and the friendships enjoyed. In this dual timeline story the predominant “home” is Blue Sky House, a place of refuge for both Edith, in the 1950′s, and later for Clare in the present day. For Clare it contains a safe place to recover from a broken engagement, and also an intriguing mystery to solve concerning Edith and her life in the small coastal town in Delaware.