The Portrait Gallery of Emily Grace

by Julie Gyselinck


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Emily Grace lives in the Edisto Bookstore full-time and has ever since owner, Karen Carter, found her lurking outside the store one afternoon about twelve years ago. Emily Grace is a petite long-haired cat. Her fur is white with large gray patches, and she has blazing green eyes that seem to connect with visitors right away. Emily Grace lives a wonderful life greeting and guiding guests through her maze of bookshelves. She lounges on top of the display stands or curls up in her bed under the window if a longer nap is needed. Bookstore customers have quickly come to love her approachable charm and loving nature. For a cat, Emily Grace is unusually friendly to strangers. She’s eager for people to pet her, give their affections, and to receive hers in return. Her friendly nature has helped her gather a large group of caring friends.


The Portrait Gallery of Emily Grace started with one drawing a shy little girl brought into the store around the summer of 2015. Karen thought it was a darling picture and pinned it up behind the register. The following summer the same little girl brought in another portrait to show off her improved artistic skills. This picture joined the original.


Eventually, the little drawings were moved farther out along the wall behind the register, where they were more visible to the public. The little artist's portraits of Emily Grace spurred an artistic movement. Soon drawings, sketches, and even poems depicting Emily Grace poured into the bookstore. They arrive by hand, by mail, and some just appear anonymously, pinned on the large corkboard outside of the store.


The mediums vary from pen and pencil to crayons and cutouts. The artistic styles and skills are wide, but each and every portrait is proudly displayed in a growing collection inside the bookstore.


The love for Emily Grace is apparent in each piece of art. It is clear she has made an impact on her visitors to the bookstore with her kind nature and warm greetings. How many hugs has the little cat known was needed? Who came to see her purely because she helped them feel better? How many times has Emily Grace wound through the shelves guiding someone to the perfect book?


Peeking around from behind a stack of books, or twirling around an ankle while someone browses, Emily Grace has become far more than just a shop cat. As her portrait gallery proves, she is the cat everyone needs to see. A warm, loving face and a masterpiece of heart.