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50 Years of Island Books: Laurie Raisys

Laurie and Victor Raisys bought Island Books in July 2015 and became the fourth owners since the store opened in 1973. They are both accomplished Microsoft alumni, but don't let that fool you into thinking they've had an easy road. Underneath that busy exterior are community builders and devoted parents of four. For our final 50 Years of Island Books installment, I sat down with Laurie in the back of the store. Here’s our conversation:

Miriam: Let's start with your favorite book category.

Laurie: I’m a total fiction person. Not historical, but thrillers, current fiction and romance. I love messy, dysfunctional families — I am a Lisa Jewell person all the way.

Miriam: Ha! OK. Tell me about your proudest accomplishment.

Laurie: Making it through COVID. It was so incredibly hard and I felt the pressure as an owner with employees, responsible for their livelihood. I remember seeing all these bookstores closing, watching it happen on social media and talking with Victor about being so sad and scared about what would happen. Nobody knew what was going to happen. And then Victor wrote that [Laurie points at a sign on the wall in the back room] and stopped by the bookstore and gave it to me. It says “Believe, make it happen. We will make it.” And we did.

Miriam: That sign is from during COVID.

Laurie: That's from during COVID.

50 Years of Island Books: The Staff

This 50 Years of Island Books series is about to reach the grand finale, because November is only a few weeks away and it's almost time to pop the champagne. Since April, I've talked to booksellers and owners from years past, sales reps, and many beloved local authors to paint a picture of what Island Books has meant to the community and how it evolved into the place it is today.

Now, I'm turning my attention to the people who show up hour to hour, in the here and now, to make the store the living, breathing wonderland that it is and will be in 2023 and beyond. On a rainy Monday when the store was closed for cleaning, I pulled them aside for some heart-to-hearts.

So many times we come in and say a quick hi to these friendly booksellers, the face of a familiar place we know and love, but it's rare we think about who they are as people and what they think about as they work. I've known many of them for years and have watched the staff evolve. From my little perch, I can honestly say that they put so much love into what they do, and that our island community wouldn't be the same without them.

Side note: since I already cornered the longest tenured Island Books employee for a separate blog, Cindy only makes a tiny (and fun) appearance via Caitlin in this post. If you want to learn more about Cindy, click here.

To our Island Books booksellerswe love and appreciate all of you. Truly. Now let's get into it.

50 Years of Island Books: Elise Hooper

A native New Englander, Elise Hooper spent several years writing for television and online news outlets before getting a MA and teaching high-school literature and history. Her debut novel The Other Alcott was a nominee for the 2017 Washington Book Award. Three more novels—Learning to See, Fast Girls, and Angels of the Pacific—followed, all centered on the lives of extraordinary but overlooked historical women. Elise now lives in Seattle with her husband and two teenage daughters. You can read a great interview she did with Kelleen back in 2020 for the release of Fast Girls here.

Miriam: I loved The Other Alcott and Fast Girls. We're big fans and happy to have you on the blog. Let's start with your first visit to Island Books. Where were you in your career then, and what stood out about the store?

Elise: If I remember things correctly, I was on Mercer Island because my younger daughter had swim practice at the Mercerwood Shore Club. This must have been sometime in the winter of 2017 because it was already dark and rainy and my first book, The Other Alcott, had not yet been released. Usually when my daughter had these practices, I'd find a spot in the clubhouse and work on my second book, but I was feeling restless and had just heard about Island Books, so I decided to drop off the swim carpool kids and go on a little literary island adventure. Because, duh, why work when you can visit a bookstore? 

When I walked in the bookstore, I found the staff gathered around an opened bottle of champagne and they were celebrating, although I can't remember what the occasion was. The amazing part was that they poured me a glass and we started chatting. Instantly I felt at home. Books, bubbles, and smiling, welcoming faces on a dark and rainy night? Clearly the store was my kind of place. That evening marked the beginning of a great relationship.


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