There's something about Harry

Abby Stone, Taylor LaRese, Gretta Hehre, and Rosie Bick
The fun-loving staff at Edgartown Books ran the party last Friday night. (From left) Abby Stone, Taylor LaRese, Gretta Hehre, and Rosie Bick. Photo by Jon Ollwerther

By Anna Marie D'Addarie - July 26, 2007

Last Friday Emily Mondry, 14, packed 15 books in a tote bag and, like taking coals to Newcastle, set out for Edgartown Books. It was 5 am. By 5:30 am she was somewhat drowsy but comfortable in a beach chair on the bookstore porch, making her the first person in line to pick up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the latest and last book in the fantastically popular series, an honor she would have to wait 18 hours and 30 minutes to receive.

Ms. Mondry, a summer resident of Edgartown, has had some experience with the Potter vigil. Two years ago for the release of book six, she and her younger sister were the first two in line in Edgartown, while two years before that their older brother took the honors at the same store.

In recognition, Edgartown Books owner Susan Mercier surprised Ms. Mondry at midnight with a deluxe collector's edition.

"I don't think Harry is going to die," said Ms. Mondry when we spoke on Friday morning. The soft-spoken, young woman who hails from Dallas, Texas, thought author J.K. Rowling would spare the young wizard's life and do in some lesser characters.

Keeping Ms. Mondry company on the porch was Emily Mercier, 16, daughter of the shop owner. The two girls have much in common, but this was Ms. Mercier's first marathon sit-in. "It's my first time and the last chance," said Ms. Mercier.

She may be right about it being the last chance, a feeling echoed by many I spoke with last Friday. Even if Ms. Rowling creates another series and even if that series becomes Potter-popular, it can never attain the emotional highs of this final release.

Potter parties

Friday night was the grand finale, but not at all a sad occasion. With more fanfare, Island bookstores went all out and customers responded in kind by showing up early to capture every bit of the fun. Patrons at Riley's Reads in Vineyard Haven relaxed the time away by watching Harry Potter movies, eating candy and other treats, playing games, and enjoying the quieter atmosphere. Katie Van Riper, 11, of Vineyard Haven and Marietta, Ga., and her father, Bo, were engaged in a friendly game of chess, muggle-style. Ms. Van Riper had very definite opinions about which characters would die in the book, and she backed up those opinions with quotes from earlier books. She had me convinced.

At the Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven the party was louder and loads of fun. Linda Hiller wore her wizard hat and official Bunch of Grapes tee-shirt as she joined the staff of more than 15 for the evening. Ms. Hiller worked the crowd, asking Harry Potter trivia questions and passing out prizes. "It's more fun. People are in a good mood," said Ms. Hiller who had also volunteered to help at the last few Potter book release parties.

The first person in line at the Bunch of Grapes was Kelley Wilson of West Tisbury who began her wait at 8:47 am. She promised her children she would be the first in line this time and, in spite of an injury that put her on crutches, she kept her promise.

Heidi White, 10, of Oak Bluffs, lined up in Vineyard Haven at 9:30 pm. She won a Potter movie poster in the Bunch of Grapes raffle. Her celebration was cut short by the countdown to midnight. The crowd, which had snaked up Spring Street to the First Baptist Church, chanted the numbers, getting louder and louder as if the sound would blow the bookstore doors open.

In less than 45 minutes it was over. All the people in line had their books and were on their way home. Katherine Fergason, Bunch of Grapes manager and children's book buyer, said everything went well, but actually the store sold more books the following day. Many people had pre-ordered but chose to forego the hoopla for a more leisurely experience.

"Hermione dies," hollered a young woman from a car traveling up Main Street in Vineyard Haven. No one paid any attention. Most were clutching copies of book seven and soon all questions would be answered. It's been a wild ride and fans want to savor every word.