Billie Best’s memoir is a provocative, at times hilarious, account of her midlife mistakes and misadventures, and how they build her strength as she copes with her soul mate turned cheating husband who wants his death to be performance art, his doppelganger mistress who wants to steal her identity, and the financial collapse of the farm she loves. An inspiring tale of a woman’s rites of passage from her 40s to her 60s when everything in her life changes.
Most of the story takes place in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts where Best and her husband purchased a farm in 1998 as a second home after her success in the technology business. The book charts their course from high tech city people to low tech farm folk as it exposes the fissures in their marriage brought on by diverging visions for the future, her immersion into farming and his escape into an affair.
Three months before his death he invites his until then secret mistress to spend the weekend with him and his wife. It’s his goodbye present to himself and it doesn’t go well. Best’s emotional scars are permanent, triggering a cascade of rage, neurosis and obsessive-compulsive cleaning. It takes years for her to unravel the lies buried in their marriage. Then she discovers some forgotten secrets of her own.
An illumination of a woman’s power in midlife, Best’s memoir is a gutsy saga of how a marriage breaks down after 30 years, what to do (and not to do) when your husband cheats on you, how to deal with a midlife crisis, how to plan your own funeral and die at home, how to move forward after becoming a widow, and the personal renaissance of downsizing and starting over — in short, this book is about how to age well.
Muck Boots Required
Best’s book is an important read. She bravely peels the proverbial onion to its core, mucking through the painful revelations that bring her to her knees: facing bad decisions, unintentional deceit, selfishness and repressed anger. This is not a downer shoulda-coulda-woulda book. It is a riveting and humorous account of a real marriage, fraught with thin layers of distrust, failed ventures and past glories. Ultimately, it’s about real love, understanding and moving on. I highly recommend this book to anyone, but it will resonate profoundly with anyone who is searching to unveil the truths in their own life and find the humor, humility, forgiveness and grace in that process. — Jules, August 25, Amazon 5 stars
“Till death do us part” turns out to be much more complicated.
Billie Best knows her way around rock bands, corporate America, small scale farming, and the most complicated business of all: matters of the heart. With her powerful writing; sentences that can lasso, seduce, inspire and bring tears to eyes, Ms. Best ventures where few dare with such naked honesty. When her considerable confidence is exploded by the twin events of her husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis and, just before his death, the gut-punch discovery of his years long affair with another woman, Billie sets on a journey of discovery: Who was this other woman? How long? Where? When and, perhaps the hardest question: Why? The search leads her to question not only her own role in her marriage but her own place in the world. With honesty, humility and abundant humor Billie turns her life experiences – the heartbreaking and the sublime – into a teaching moment for the rest of us. Billie Best is living a life, to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel, that is “turned up to eleven.” Thanks to the power of her pen we readers get to hang on for the ride. It’s a page turner. — M.D. Taylor (aka, Maria Nation), June 29, Amazon 5 stars
A total delight
I could not have adored this book more. As an extroverted feminist animal lover who is also an introverted creative, this was right up my reading alley. Best’s story about finding love both sensually and architecturally— along with disaster in both realms—is brave, boisterous, ballsy and just downright fun to read. The voice is accessible but intelligent, candid but heartfelt. Get copies for your favorite friends because if they borrow it, they’ll never give it back! — Courtney Maum (aka The Booklife), author of Costalegre and Before & After the Book Deal, June 14, Goodreads & Amazon 5 stars
This is the “Eat Pray Love” book for over 50’s!
Outstanding book. Will be recommending to my friends. The book to read and analyze your life and future. — Demille, June 25, Amazon 5 stars
In a way, How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life is a sort of un-boxing of Billie’s life. It’s raw, honest, funny, insightful, and gripping. The writing is exquisite. Billie Best writes with detail, color, and a terrific sense of rhythm. Her appreciation for story comes as no surprise—nor does her talent for self-awareness. — Mark Stevens, author of the Allison Coil Mystery Series, May 31, Amazon 5 stars
So many emotions to ride from one chapter to the next
Billie Best is a brilliant storyteller, no matter the day, topic or medium. I lived nearby when she started farming, and helped a little after her husband died. A few years ago I read an early draft of her memoir, yet this book is still an amazing adventure! I am excited to read it again with The 2020 Quarantine Book Club. The trail of discovery which Billie blazed during her “couples therapy with a dead man” is courageous, excruciating and exhilarating. I can hardly wait for every blog post until her next books are published. — Catherine, May 22, Amazon 5 stars
Soul Baring Honesty…and Redemption
I could not put this book down. Billie’s honesty and humor were exactly what I needed during this pandemic isolation. I could relate to her journey on so many levels, and she provided pragmatic insight into issues that so many of us have faced alone (when we could have found company had we shared our stories with others). Women would have such power if we didn’t hide the injustices we face due to shame. This book is one of the most impactful I’ve ever read. Thanks, Billie. — Northwest, May 22, Amazon 5 stars
Empowering roadmap to live one’s best life regardless of age
Billie Best’s book is a candid review of her life and the ups and downs and accommodations that have led her to embrace her present and future. Her varied experiences, from waitressing teen to band manager to tech hand to ‘crazy’ farmer to author/blogger show that reinvention can happen at any age, with dreams fulfilled if one just recognizes what they are and is open to receive them. Billie speaks frankly of her struggles and growing self awareness as she reflects back, all of which help her consciously create the next stage of her life as a strong, independent senior woman. — Parmom, May 18, Amazon 5 stars
Thought provoking reflection of one woman’s effort to work through so many issues that we all face
The breath of topics, and how thoughtfully they were addressed, impressed me. So many topics that women face as the years pass; loss, grief, downsizing, starting over. Very serious issues but presented with warmth, and at times, humor. Billie’s ability to both face and share her life so honestly is an inspiration for all of us. With the result that she arrives at a place where she can move forward with optimism and joy. — CP, May 14, Amazon 5 stars
Wonderful memoir about an important topic!
Women, especially women of a certain age, need to read this book! No one plans for their spouse’s death, let alone their own in American Culture. This book is both a warning and an invitation to dip your toe in the pool to experience what death and grief experiences feel like. I really enjoyed Billie Best’s story told with both humor and heartfelt emotion. Her experience truly exemplifies death positivity. Looking forward to future work by her. — Pamela Jo, author of Death Becomes Us, May 14, Amazon 5 stars
For all of us who ever though about someday owning a farm
The book could be entertaining for anyone who enjoys a well written story — but for for those of us who can relate to the life changes the author navigates through, the story is more than entertaining — it’s like sharing a glass of wine with an old friend. — R Lynne, May 7, Amazon 5 stars
Crash, burn, rise
Billie paints a picture that we have all seen…life’s harshest realities that press on our temples and squeeze tears from our souls. I found myself taking breaks after finishing certain chapters in order to process what I had just read. Billie lays it all out on the floor in neat piles, to be picked up later and dealt with. She demonstrates that there can be salvation, if we only have the courage to search for peace and meaning. I wish she would come clean and organize my house. — Karen G., May 2, Amazon 5 stars
This is an engaging and engrossing memoir of a woman who, from an early age, makes her way, finds her path and follows her passions. Billie Best digs deep to reconcile her seemingly perfect marriage with the infidelity of her husband. Life asks her to do the nearly impossible task of continuing to be his caretaker through terminal cancer while discovering the affair. And juggling the rest of his and her family’s dynamics and needs through it all. Billie manages to stay true to herself through some pretty dark times. It’s a pleasure to follow her through to the other side. — Amy Rudnick, May 1, Amazon 5 stars
No Mess Here. Billie’s Journey is Full of Life and Courage! Many of Us Are Envious!
There were so many intersections between Billie’s experiences and mine. I couldn’t help feeling I wished we had been close friends during those times…. as her wit and honesty would have been most welcome! Do read her book and be enriched by what she shares. — Joan L, April 29, Amazon 5 stars
A MUST READ!
Having known Billie for years as a friend and the manager of several of my bands (Orchestra Luna II thru Berlin Airlift) I thought I knew her. Like many of our friends I was dead certain that she and her husband, Chet, were a perfect iconic pair. How little did I know. Did any of us remotely close to both of them know. This book cracks open that can of worms with brutal anger, courage and honesty. It’s also really funny. I can hear Billie’s laugh at herself as she’s writing. But it is primarily a thoroughly deep investigation of the Self. Of the nature of love, infidelity and hard earned forgiveness. Of transformation in spite of obstacles. I think her mother, Rosemary, is worthy of an entire novel unto herself.I found myself comparing life notes. How would I have handled a similar situation? Would I have presented my world as glorious even as I uncovered the dark truth? I know for sure in how many places and relationships I have failed. Billie stuck that stick into the wasp nest of my life with a vengeance.
The book is a fast read. Smooth and beautifully structured. In particular I loved the naming of the Other Woman as ‘The Juicer’. Made me laugh every time I read it. And also the Chet/Billie dialogue. The sharp, spiteful and hysterically hilarious back-and-forth repartee. The vivid descriptions of Crazy Wife Farm, Rosemary’s hoarded boxes, Moon, her Weimaraner and constant companion who held in a diarrhea explosion INside for an OUTside the fancy house BnB. My list of favorites has no ending.
Billie challenges you as she challenges herself to expand and evolve beyond the unpredictable, to process the impossible to process losses, to reimagine death, to cope with aging in a young people’s hot action bar. All experiences we know and work through ourselves at any age.
READ THIS BOOK! It will knock you out and crack open your head about your Self, your life and have you Hi-5 this work by one incredible and brilliant woman. — Rick Berlin, author of The Paragraphs, April 29, Amazon 5 stars
Loved this book!
Great story, elegant writing. A must read.
Thank you, Billie, for making my isolation enjoyable.
— SusieLibrarian, April 29, Amazon 5 stars
Great storytelling, kudos for first book, want to hear more, please!
I follow Billie’s blog, and this book really gives you an amazing insight into the journey this woman took to get to where she is today. Wow, what a wonderfully compelling story, so well written, with so much honesty, insight and humor, you have to admire her perseverance to keep reinventing herself and while trying to be her authentic self, always. You go, Girl! And, keep writing, please! — Bjf924, April 27, Amazon 5 stars
This book sits next to many classics on my bookshelf. And that is where it belongs; another great writer whose work will be read for decades upon decades. — Robby, April 24, Amazon 5 stars
A creative tour de force!
I found Billie Best’s page-turning memoir to be a creative and entertaining tour de force, written with a perfect mixture of humor and pathos. Billie is a wonderful storyteller and she spins a yarn out of real life that is accessible and relatable, with exquisite details of characters and situations. She writes openly and cleverly about life, death, love, commitment and sex. Her story will linger with you and will you not want this book to end! — Laurel Greenberg, April 24, Amazon 5 stars
Read. Laugh. Cry. Repeat.
What did I like about this book? Every word. What did I dislike about this book? That it ended. Honestly, I wasn’t sure the emotionally honest, the ever-pithy and phenomenally funny Ms. Best could top the short form of her must-read blog, but I bought the book anyway because, like her, I am a dreamer and a doer. To say she exceeded my expectations would be an understatement. In this memoir, Billie delivers the raw emotional depth of Cheryl Strayed, the self-deprecating humor of Nora Ephron and the post-menopausal wisdom of Anne Lamott. If you like any of these authors, you will enjoy this book. Thanks, Billie. You truly are the best. — Denise O., April 22, Amazon 5 stars
Definitely not a chick’s book
How I Made a Hugh Mess of My Life (or Couples Therapy with a Dead Man) concerns the issues that might arise at the end of any long, intimate relationship with another human being — monogamy, infidelity, chronic illness, reassessment, resentment, love and death. Billie Best is able to write of her personal confrontation with these difficult matters in lucid and energetic prose allowing for both startling and humorous revelations for herself and the reader. An unrelenting read. — Mark Olson, April 21, Amazon 5 stars
Raw, honest, poignant, witty and wise
The many readers of Billie Best’s blog, who know her as a witty dispenser of wry aging-related advice, may be surprised to find themselves pulled irresistibly into an account of the gut-wrenching unraveling of a woman’s expectations about her own life. A force of pure energy and determination, there is nothing Billie won’t tackle: the perfect marriage, the mid-life career change from successful executive to idealistic farmer, and even, when her husband falls terminally ill, orchestrator of a flawless death-plan according to his wishes. But it takes her ten years of denial and suffering to confront and then triumphantly overcome the cracks in this ideal picture, the specter of infidelity beyond the grave, her obsessive need for tidiness and order, and her attachment to ephemeral things. — Hester Velmans, author of Slipper, April 9, 2020, Amazon & Goodreads 5 stars
An empowering story of the human spirit’s endurance
This incredibly personal journey of woman who in the face of deception and agonizing realizations about her true life soulmate and lifelong lover finds her own inner truth and finds the liberation she so desperately seeks. It’s a book of triumph over insurmountable odds of the human spirit’s ability to heal and thrive. Best’s honesty is raw. It cuts to the bone. A lot of reviews might call this an inspiring woman’s book, but I find it to be an inspiring book for woman and men about rising above life’s defeats and to never stop moving toward the light. — Rebecca Purro, April 7, 2020, Amazon 5 stars
A powerful memoir that explores relationships, infidelity, emotional healing and reinvention. I laughed and cried along with Billie as she told her story. This book is beautifully written. I loved it. — Kim, April 3, 2020, Goodreads 5 stars
Billie Best is my hero! Amazing read. Being the same age I can relate to so much of what the author is expressing in her memoir. I laughed, I cried, with Billie. She has come full circle in the circle of life. I was not able to put this book down. Highly recommend. — Suzanne Lizura, April 1, 2020, Amazon 5 stars
Billie is definitely an exquisite word smith. I really enjoyed her memoir. It was interesting, quirky, introspective, funny, at times hilarious! She has LIVED a fulfilling life and continues to contemplate her new life, by herself. Great book from a female perspective. — Janet Balhan, March 31, 2020, Goodreads 5 stars
The Best 14 Reads From the 2020 Quarantine Book Club (April 2020)
Social distancing? No problem! Dive into a virtual community of book lovers with these hot picks from the Quarantine Book Club.