Title/Author: The Farm by Joanne Ramos
Publisher: Random House
In a nutshell (Publisher):
Nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley is a luxury retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, personal fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you’re paid big money to stay here—more than you’ve ever dreamed of. The catch? For nine months, you cannot leave the grounds, your movements are monitored, and you are cut off from your former life while you dedicate yourself to the task of producing the perfect baby. For someone else.
Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, is in desperate search of a better future when she commits to being a “Host” at Golden Oaks—or the Farm, as residents call it. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her family, Jane is determined to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she’ll receive on the delivery of her child.
Gripping, provocative, heartbreaking, The Farm pushes to the extremes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.
Verdict: An unpopular opinion
Generally a thought-provoking read, touching several issues such as motherhood, power, immigration, and feminism.
This novel is about a surrogacy business that quite possibly exist in the future – Golden Oaks. They hire high profile candidates who fulfill the requirements sought by the rich and powerful, to be the surrogate mothers of their child(ren). Those who can afford to pay more get the better, higher profile (fair-skinned, highly educated, intelligent, graduates of high-ranking universities, etc) Hosts. ‘Everything sacred – outsourced, packaged, sold to the highest bidder!’ And these Hosts get better treatment, benefits and salary too.
We’re introduced to Jane (an immigrant mother desperately needing a job after being fired from one), Mae Yu (the head of the surrogacy business at Golden Oaks), Reagan (a high profile Golden Oaks Host) and Ate (Jane’s hardworking cousin).
Motherhood comes with its challenges and Jane wasn’t really prepared for it. She wanted to be a good mother to Amalia, her daughter, and to be able to provide for her. In order to do that, she desperately needed a job after being fired from one. When another job application was accepted at Golden Oaks, she took it but not without some reservations because this job as a surrogate mother, required her to be in the vicinity at all times and Mae Yu (the head of Golden Oaks) didn’t allow her to see Amalia at all, for fear that seeing Amalia will add to her stress during her pregnancy. How can she be a good mother when she can’t even bond with her own daughter?
As a mother myself, I understood what Jane felt every time she video chatted with Amalia and Ate. It made her want to see Amalia even more – to be there for her, to comfort her when she cries, to not miss any of her firsts – smile, laugh, crawl, step, etc.
It is frustrating and heartbreaking for a mother to have to take such good care of someone else’s baby but not her own. And to top it all, she couldn’t even have her own say on decisions pertaining to her own body. Gasp!! All Hosts at Golden Oaks had rules to follow. And every decision made on their bodies and the babies they carry are decided by their high-paying clients, because you know, clients are always ‘right’, right? Throughout Jane’s stay and other Hosts at Golden Oaks, their every movement were monitored, conversations listened to, nutrition and meals had to be strictly adhered to, even their exercise routines which varied according to each Host’s needs because every pregnancy is different.
And everything is decided upon what’s best for the Host’s baby, in other words, everything had to be in accordance to their clients’ demands. And the Hosts, people like Jane, who mostly needed this ‘job’ for the money, had to follow the rules and give in to their whims and fancies.
This novel also took a brutal, honest look at being an immigrant and how much harder immigrants have to work to survive. What’s discouraging though is how unfairly the immigrants can be treated by those in power and the privileged, and how much they have to accept and kow-tow to the higher-ups in order to survive.
As mentioned, the novel touched on several important issues, told through numerous characters. Every issue was broadly touched and every character had almost an equal part in the story, making it lose the impact I was hoping for.
I loved the premise, and truly, this book had a lot of potential. I just felt something lacked. I honestly wanted to love this book that I’d shout out to the world to read it now. But it didn’t have that impact on me.
Thank you Netgalley and Random House Publishing for providing a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
*Quotes included here are from an advanced readers copy and are subject to change upon final publication.
Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!
Till then, may the force of good books be with you always and HAPPY READING!