The Story Behind the Bookstore in the Window & Sonya's New Chapter
In every good story, there's an enduring main character, their supporting friends and family, a measly antagonist, and a twisting plotline that leaves you anxiously rushing to the next page. It's easy to get lost in a love story with forbidden romance, like Romeo or Juliet, or a tale that makes you root for the hero of a underdog like Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings.
For some, a biography of their favorite president, renaissance artist, or the enamoring 1960s actress inspires them most. We divulge in imagination and creation from childhood to adulthood and often look for answers in movies, documentaries, audiobooks, and good ole faithful paperback books.
We look into these stories searching for a character whose values mirror our own, while claiming our roles in their unraveling storylines. There seems to be a shared curiosity about how our lives will unfold. The weighty question lingers within us all, What story will our lives tell?
For Sonya Dykes, a woman with clear glasses and blonde, curly ringlets, her life would be considered an adventure, but it is not without many unexpected turns.
Most everyone who meets her finds the old saying to be true — there's no such thing as strangers, just friends you haven't met yet. With her welcoming smile and booming laugh, she makes everyone feel at home. She's a mixed bag of talents, and she's found a way to put them all to work in her new store, the Bookstore in the Window, an emporium of gadgets, doo-dads, and books of all kinds.
If you've ever watched Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, it's like that but more southern.
The ceilings are low, and the space is filled with couches, string lights, funny anecdotes scattered on the walls, and practically any book you can imagine. Don't be surprised to hear 70s music playing not so softly in the background, especially Elton John's greatest hits.
Sonya loves to create a space that encourages others to be themselves, express their interests, and a place to share their story. What many may not realize is that her influence on others' lives began long before the Bookstore in the Window was ever a thought.
She previously worked at Jones County Junior College for fifteen years, and she played many roles during her time: supervisor, Student Government Association sponsor. Some would even call her a second mother. She was all things to all people until one day her life completely paused when her eldest son, Brandon Davis, unexpectedly passed away.
Everything in her life changed. From shock, anger, to the worst antagonist of them all —Grief. Colors became dull in this new world and this new character, grief, stole her passion for the things she once enjoyed. The darkness became too much, and she knew she couldn't go back to work. That chapter of her life was finished.
She says, "I was empty.When it came time for me to go back to work and do it, I broke down thinking about it. People came into my office all the time and talked about everything, and I just could not sit and listen anymore. I couldn't be everybody's mama. I was Brandon's mama right now, and I had nothing else to give."
Sonya would enter a long season of grief yet still found ways to openly share her feelings on her blog when she needed to process them with others. She decided to come home and spend time with her grandchild, Kingston, Brandon and Brooke's son.
"We bought a redneck swimming pool and put it together in the backyard. I floated and read books to escape grief. I grew succulents in the greenhouse and all that and started to paint. After a while, I realized I wouldn't come out of the dark if I didn't leave my house," she laughs.
Though this sadness was a heavy and constant burden, Sonya slowly but surely found her footing again. She started volunteering with Laurel Main Street and helping Judi, the former Executive Director. She saw different opportunities to help Downtown Laurel and stepped into new roles and committees.
She decided to open her store in January of 2020 in the window of Lott Furniture when she realized that Laurel didn't have a bookstore of its own. It began as a pop-up of miscellaneous fiction and non-fiction, and people could even donate their books to the collection. It was simple and enjoyable, but most importantly, it was a step out of the darkness. It started a new chapter in her life, and something that would make Brandon proud.
Soon the bookstore outgrew its window, and Sonya moved to the first-and-a-half floor of Lott Furniture. Today, people from all over the US visit her, and some even share their stories of loss.
She says, "It's kind of been my mission field somehow. People will come to me or send others to me to talk because I've lost a child. I had an author from Atlanta visit me, and she told me her story. She stood right there at my counter, and we cried and prayed together. It's so strange to share grief with someone else, but I guess that's why God has me here."
Sonya's work has only grown since she opened the Bookstore in the Window two years ago. Along with her location at Lott Furniture, she has opened a Christian bookstore on Short 7th Avenue, near the Caron Gallery South.
Her story continues to unfold day by day, and she'll tell you there are hard days in this chapter, too. If there's one thing we're sure of, her story of grief, redemption, and dreaming again will touch the lives of others along the way.
Be sure to visit the Bookstore in the Window and her Christian Bookstore on short 7th in Downtown Laurel. Feel free to place an order by phone and keep up with any news or updates by following Sonya on Instagram!