Hilarie Burton was a working actress not feeling particularly fulfilled by the roles she was being offered and dreaming of escape to Paris when she met actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan. After a pretty whirlwind courtship, they were having a baby and she was often alone with a newborn in LA, lonely and missing family and friends. After falling in love with a town in New York, they decide to take a risk and move out to a cabin, a doer-upper that Hilarie throws her passion for renovation into. A few years later they decide they want more of this life, and buy Mischief Farm.
The book chronicles their move there, how they made themselves a part of the community, saved the local sweet shop after the sudden death of its beloved owner, and volunteered to renovate a community home for children. Hilarie is also candid about her struggle with secondary infertility and her heartbreaking miscarriages. Overall, as she says, this is “a love letter. To a town. To a farm. To a man.”
I mostly know Hilarie Burton from One Tree Hill. She’s Peyton Sawyer, part of a bad love triangle, obsessed with music and art, who left before the end of the show. I stuck it out to the bitter end though. I’ve been following her for a while, mostly because she’s living a life I think I’d like, even if in reality I’d be terrible at it. But the appeal is there for a lot of us I think. Get away from city living, where you don’t know your neighbours, and become part of a community. Work with your hands so you feel like you’re actually doing something productive. Let your children run wild. Give back where you can. I don’t think I’d be quite as Earth Mother-y as she is, I’m too cynical, but it’s definitely working out for her, their farm seems amazing.
It’s a lovely book in a lot of ways, easy reading, with a very companionable way of writing, as if you’re a friend. And it’s a nice story, moving away from what you’re supposed to want I guess – a flashy life in LA with all those trappings – to a simpler way of living. It’s definitely not a celebrity memoir, there are no gossipy tidbits about actors, she doesn’t delve into her early days as an actress or anything much to do with her career. This is strictly about her life as she lives it now and what drove her there. That’s not a negative, but if anyone is looking for One Tree Hill stories, this is not the place.
I enjoyed the book, but it was missing something for me, and I am not sure what that is. Even though she seems very upfront about everything I still felt a little at arm’s length? I don’t know how else to describe it. I also thought Jeffrey Dean Morgan didn’t come across all that well as a partner, especially in the beginning. Sure it’s from her POV and they both agreed to start a family when they barely knew each other and they know what an actor’s life entails, but she has Gus and he goes off filming. I would be furious. Left with a newborn with no family around? That shit is HARD. It reads a little like he’d hit an age where a family seemed like the thing to do, but he didn’t want to change anything about his life to have it. That was disappointing. She seems like the sort of person who wouldn’t put up with that. They do seem to get better at communicating as time goes on, and that’s a good thing to show people – how relationships shift over time.
I do wish a little bit that the book had been arranged differently. The preface covers their wedding, and by the time I got to the end I had forgotten that and thought it was weird that them finally getting married wasn’t covered in the book. I think it would have made a nice coda. And the insertion of little snippets of memories that go with recipes were jarring. You’re reading about renovating the house or relationship issues and then turn a page and it doesn’t follow on. I don’t mind the parts themselves but there had to be a better way of putting them in the book that didn’t jolt you out of what you were reading every time.
Still, this is a quick and mostly lovely read that has let me daydreaming about a plot of land with chickens, maybe an alpaca or two.