Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Rediscovered

Melissa Gilbert. Gallery, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-982177-18-8

Actor Gilbert (Prairie Tale) leaves Hollywood behind for life in the country in this utterly entertaining account. With her characteristic wit and self-deprecating charm, Gilbert—best known for her role as Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie—takes readers on a ride through the highs and lows of her recent life with her husband, actor and West Wing alum Timothy Busfield. A few years after an eventful (practice) run for Congress in Michigan in 2015, she and Tim purchased a run-down house in upstate New York. Just as they had finished rehabbing their little home, the pandemic hit, forcing the two actors to fully commit to rustic life, which included building a chicken coop, raising chicks (“I was a motherclucker”), and gardening. Hilariously recounting their new life “on a DIY budget,” Gilbert writes, “We were the aspiring Chip and Joanna Gaines of the Catskills.” While decrying pandemic pounds, Gilbert peppers in delicious recipes for comfort food staples that saw her through her rockier days, such as slow cooker “loaded baked potato soup,” spaghetti pie, and gingersnap pumpkin pie. Along the way, she delights in the little things that came from hunkering down, revealing that she’s not above such simple joys as Trader Joe’s stuffing-flavored potato chips. Fans will have no trouble devouring this. (May)