The Farmby Published 07 May 2019
Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money—more than you've ever dreamed of—to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your überwealthy clients.
Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter's well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she'll receive on delivery—or worse.
Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.
The Farm Reviews
The Farm is a story about women serving as surrogates (hosts) for wealthy clients at Golden Oaks, a private estate in New York. The host selection process is intense and competitive, but offers a large financial reward for those selected who do not breach the strict terms of their contract.
The story predominately focuses on Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, who makes the difficult decision to serve as a host in order to help provide a better life for her young daughter Amalia. Jane’s older cousin Ate, other hosts at the farm, and Mae, Golden Oaks’ Director of Operations, are secondary characters in the story. The book is focused on class and privilege, highlighted by the various decisions different characters make (or have the options to make) depending on their own personal motivations.
The premise of The Farm was interesting, yet the execution was average. The ending was a bit unrealistic. I kept hoping the story would pick up and get better but it just remained an ok read for me.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for providing an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
“The Farm”... called “Golden Oaks”, is a surrogacy Farm. Women are impregnated with sperm to host a child. Most of the ‘host women’ are black Caribbean immigrant women. They need jobs - the money is good. The clients are wealthy and white.
It’s an intriguing story - but the writing often felt motionless and toneless. I kept wanting to add some Technicolor.
Jane, ( who left her own baby behind), Lisa, ( feisty rebel of the bunch), and Reagan are all hosts on the farm. Each went through intensive vetting before they were selected. Other main characters are Ate, ( too old to be a host mother- but had been a master Nanny Queen in her prime), and Mae. (Ms. Wealthy-bossy of ‘Golden Oaks)...
For nine months the host women are medically monitored. At the end of nine months - the infant gets handed over to the client whose embryo they carry.
The host women are offered many spa benefits - but also potential penalties.
Topic Themes explored are race, class, inequality, wealth, poverty, immigration, motherhood, trust, friendships, personal freedom, rules, sacrifice, self expression, exploitation, manipulation, childcare, big business, greed, fear and isolation, radical politics, and morality, with an all women dominated cast of characters.
The main female leads and the supporting females all have something to say. At times - there was not much difference between any of them, other than we knew who the HAVES and HAVE NOTS were.
I wanted to like this more than I did. The ending is weak and the epilogue just felt long and senseless.
At the same time - I honesty felt this book had potential.
‘The Farm’, itself.....had me thinking ( not particularly with all the stereotyping and the far-fetched scenarios)....but I do think it’s possible there are surrogacy home - retreats or otherwise. With integrity, these places could be a supportive environment for those serious about surrogacy.
Thank you Random House Publishing, Netgalley, and Joanne Ramos
The Farm is a biting social commentary. Joanne Ramos is outraged in a good way. Her outrage simmers below the surface at times. Other times, it boils over.
At first glance, the novel appears as an indictment of the one percent and their exploitation of the poor. But for Golden Oaks (the novel's high-end surrogacy business) to thrive, the desperation of poor surrogates is only one component of the story. Golden Oaks also depends on the complicity of the slightly better off poor, the cold ambition of the white collar class, and the good intentions of the socially conscious affluent.
Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the story is that there doesn't seem to be anything standing in the way of a facility like Golden Oaks operating in real life. This is troubling.
The Farm is a brilliant debut novel. Add it to your summer TBR list.
Or will she admit, as she has rarely conceded, that life is sometimes more complicated than easy judgements? That maybe, sometimes, you do the most good when it seems like you’re doing nothing much at all.
Some time ago, I read a starred review for The Farm, requested an arc, got approved, and then promptly forgot everything about the book that had made me want to read it in the first place. And let me tell you: I think this is the best possible thing that could have happened.
Words like "dystopia" are being thrown around in reviews of the The Farm, as are comparisons to The Handmaid's Tale, but this is misleading. This book should not be regarded as a dystopia; it is a mere breath away from reality. It is almost entirely a contemporary. Most, if not all, of what happens in this book is already happening. If I had gone into this believing I was getting a dystopian novel, I would have been disappointed.
Instead, The Farm is better viewed as a character-driven exploration of race, immigrants, class, and reproductive rights in modern America. As technology develops, we see the disappearance of blue collar jobs, long-filled by immigrants and the poorest Americans. Out of this will grow - and are growing - service-based jobs. One such job that is increasingly becoming an option for former blue collar workers is surrogacy. This is not a dystopian matter. Companies like Growing Generations already exist, offering you the chance to earn up to $63,000, plus benefits.
This book is about a company called Golden Oaks, similar to Growing Generations above, except that it offers a live-in center for the surrogates to be free from outside threats and distractions, eat only the most nutritious food, and live stress-free.
Ramos uses this setting to examine several very different characters. There's Jane, a Filipina who joins Golden Oaks to earn money for her own 6-month-old baby, and her older cousin, Evelyn, who has a long history of caring for rich people's newborns. There's white, pretty and educated Reagan, a "premium host" who is driven by her need to do good and be of use. There's Lisa, also white, who is on her third pregnancy at Golden Oaks and frequently criticizes the center for its exploitation, calling it "The Farm".
Reagan laughs, surprising herself. It isn’t funny, but it is. It’s all completely ridiculous: three pregnant women carrying other people’s babies talking about second-trimester sex pangs and trying to guess which one of them harbours a billionaire’s fetus.
Through these women, the author weaves a tale that I personally found fascinating. She looks at the way people can be exploited and manipulated based on their character profiles. She looks at racial and class bias and the ludicrous way rich Americans will pay so much more for a white, educated "host" when the kid is 100% theirs anyway. It's ridiculous, and yet I absolutely believed in it.
There are, of course, lots of morality questions. So much deceit goes on under the guise of protecting the surrogates from stress, and the hosts' contracts create many issues. Mae-Yu, the Chinese-American running Golden Oaks, finds loophole after loophole to lie to both clients and surrogates. Questions arise as to whether the center should be allowed to force an abortion, and whose life takes precedence - surrogate or baby's - when the host has signed a contract promising to use their best efforts to ensure the wellbeing of the unborn child.
Ramos really understands all her characters. Her writing never falters as she takes us inside such very different minds and makes each one completely believable. She must have put a lot of thought into all of their situations and motivations. And there are a number of very moving moments, too. I really enjoyed it.
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The Farm is a place where women (especially immigrants) go to serve as surrogates for wealthy families while living in spa-like surroundings. These women are handsomely paid for their services making it a win-win for both parties.
Oh man this could have been such a great book.
If you dive into this book thinking you're getting a nightmarish Handmaid's Tale-ish take on a baby harvesting farm then you're going to be disappointed.
This is a story about class and privilege and the disparity between the high and low ends of the spectrum. The wealthy achieving their goals on the back of those less fortunate has always been the way in America and this story gives a unique take on that truth.
"....in America you only need to know how to make money. Money buys everything else."
After reading this book I feel like the author promised more than she delivered.
The entire book hints at some underlying evil going on at the farm yet nothing ever happens on that front. The Farm itself is pretty straightforward leaving the story to rest solely on the characters, namely the surrogates.
Aside from Jane, the main character, we don't learn a whole lot about the other surrogates, the wealthy parents-to-be or the people running the farm.
Although Joanne Ramos has written a book featuring a timely subject matter, her telling of the story falls flat on all fronts.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.